Tompkins County
New York

Report or Discussion Item

Clean Energy Community Grant Application


Department:Planning and Sustainability DepartmentSponsors:
Category:GrantsFunctions:Energy Conservation


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Meeting History

May 4, 2017 3:00 PM  Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee Regular Meeting

Ms. McDonald reported that Tompkins County received the Clean Energy Community designation from New York State Energy and Research Development (NYSERDA) and is the first County in the region and the first in the over 40,000 population level to be awarded. The County has access up to $250,000 in grant funding and she briefly reviewed the application criteria. The grant is particularly focused on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

Tompkins County has made progress in regard to energy usage when it comes to its buildings and leads by example. More work is needed in the area of the County fleet including a fleet analysis and continuing to purchase electric vehicles. In addition, there are plans to update the County green fleet policy this year as well. These items can be completed together and integrated in this grant.

Ms. McDonald explained the proposed Clean Energy Community Grant application options. One option regarding the fleet includes hiring an intern to complete a fleet analysis comprised of analyzing the current vehicles and their use and looking into identifying potential vehicles for replacements. This option would also include the replacement of approximately ten vehicles and supporting charging stations and a consulting contract for some additional consulting services. The remainder of the grant funding under this option would be applied to the Energy Navigator position including review of the original proposal and looking at the possible use of consulting services to look at the commercial building side of things. Commercial buildings are larger energy users in our community.

Ms. McDonald stated the second proposed option would focus the entire grant on the fleet and a comprehensive look at the employee commute. There may be areas to collaborate in the area of transportation demand. This option would allow for additional vehicles and charging stations to be added to the County fleet and a more robust consulting contract.

Ms. McDonald said the Department plans to submit an application by the end of May and believes NYSERDA would be open to either option. She is looking for Committee feedback on the two proposed options.

Mr. Marx spoke of the advantage to the fleet approach as it would be easier to directly document the emissions reduction and energy savings. This option is also focusing on one area that may allow for a faster approval turnaround from NYSERDA. He also stated this option makes more sense from a fiscal standpoint.

Ms. Kiefer said she would like to see forward movement on the Energy Navigator position but is not against the funding going towards the fleet.

Mr. Marx stated $50,000 annually for a three-year period has been set aside by the Legislature for the Energy Navigator position. The energy transition is a long term steady process and will not be solved in its entirety in the next three years and there is a need to have staff devoted to that. He further spoke of the possibility of requesting a new position in next year’s budget in the Planning and Sustainability Department for someone focusing on energy. This position would be tasked with some of the items the Energy Navigator position was tasked with and would be flexible over time to respond to whatever was needed.

Ms. Chock was leaning towards being supportive of option one and said the County has made progress in the replacement of vehicles. She inquired if things were going to be included in the County budget if the funding was not received and stated based on those answers she would make her preference. She would also like to see more energy-efficient transportation and "clean-air buses" used by TCAT.

In response to Ms. Chock, Ms. Borgella stated the County was awarded this grant for all the great things the County has already done. The fleet is one area that has not been addressed too extensively. While brainstorming ideas with Department staff, discussions took place regarding County government using these funds to make further advances in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

Mr. McKenna was supportive of the second option and using funding towards the replacement of vehicles.

Ms. Robertson stated she was in favor of splitting the funding and supportive of option one. The path forward is much clearer on transportation and replacement of vehicles. She believes there is a large unaddressed use of gas used by larger facilities. She supports the efforts being focused on the larger facilities and the need for the position. The Energy and Economic Development Task Force strongly recommended the position of Energy Navigator and making that a priority.

Mr. McKenna suggested making the Energy Navigator position an ongoing target in the budget and use the grant towards the fleet. Mr. Marx spoke of the position being a long-term necessity of the Department. The funds already set aside in the current budget would allow for the position to be filled this year and allow time for the specific responsibilities to be established. The grant funding could then be used for consulting services to enhance the work done by staff.

Mr. Marx suggested using $50,000 from the 2017 Budget to hire an individual in an energy position to oversee the Energy Navigator program for the remainder of the year and apply for the grant funds for services that would support and enhance that program, then ask for a new position in 2018.

Ms. Kiefer spoke of concerns about the quality of the candidates that would be attracted if the position were only temporary. Mr. Marx explained he would seek some support of the position from the Legislature. Committee members further discussed the future of the Energy Navigator program.

Following discussion and input from the Committee, Mr. Marx stated he would draft a proposal as discussed and circulate it amongst Committee members. If an additional meeting is necessary, one can be scheduled.