Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

January-February 2015

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Featured Article: 
 Expanding NY Renewables Sector Could Create Over 200,000 Local Jobs



Welcome to the January-February issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo by Wrexie Bardaglio.
TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).


We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Cayuga Power Plant and NYSEG File Opposing Plans with PSC
By Andrew Casler, Ithaca Journal

Cayuga Power Plant and NYSEG failed to reach agreement on the future of the 302-megawatt, coal-fired operation by the deadline earlier this month, filing very different plans with the state Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC has final say on the plant's fate.


Despite lengthy negotiations, the two companies have been unable to come to terms, NYSEG said in its filing on Friday. "NYSEG cannot agree with Cayuga's repowering proposal because it would require NYSEG customers to finance the repowering of (the power plant) at a cost that is millions of dollars more expensive for customers than other available options," the filing asserted.


Cayuga Power Plant
Cayuga Power Plant is on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake in the town of Lansing.

NYSEG asked the PSC to decide that "further pursuit of a largely customer-subsidized Cayuga Facility repowering is not in the public interest" and allow the power distribution company to move forward with reinforcing its transmission lines.


Cayuga Operating Co. LLC submitted a proposal that painted a vastly different picture of the plant's proposed retrofitting. Cayuga's proposal recommends that NYSEG pay $49.5 million in construction costs and $9.6 million annually for 10 years, or $104.2 million net present value, to retrofit and operate the plant's electric generating units.


Cayuga estimated that the repowering would bring $145 million in economic benefits and $24 million in savings from fuel diversity and lower surcharges on NYSEG customers.


NYSEG said its customers would pay $452.3 million for a Cayuga facility retrofitting. The power distribution company estimated $263.7 million in revenue from a repowered Cayuga facility, which would result in a net $188.6 million cost to NYSEG customers.


"In practice, Cayuga's repowering proposal seeks to have all risk associated with negative changes in market revenues assigned to NYSEG's customers," the NYSEG filing said, pointing out that "Cayuga's owners remain free to pursue repowering the Cayuga Facility without customer subsidies via self-generated funding or by attracting other capital in the marketplace."


Cayuga Power Plant didn't sell electricity for eight months in 2012 because natural-gas-fired plants were undercutting its prices, and owners considered closing the plant. Because of a 300-megawatt shortfall during peak electricity demand, the plant remains open with funding from a state-mandated surcharge on all NYSEG customers. The power-purchasing agreement runs through mid-2017.


NYSEG customers paid $32 million in 2014 to keep the plant open, company spokesman Clay Ellis said. In 2015, NYSEG residential customers using 600 kilowatt-hours per month will pay 45 cents a month to keep the plant open, and nonresidential customers with 2,000 kilowatts of demand will pay $700 per month.


In past proposals, Cayuga has sought to have the plant retrofitted for all natural-gas power generation. This time, however, the company proposed deploying dual-fuel capability that would allow the plant to switch on the coal burners if necessary. The company has estimated that construction costs would range between $60 million and $370 million, depending on how many boilers are retrofitted.


NYSEG supported closing the plant and upgrading transmission lines in the area, noting that upgrading would only cost an estimated $56 million.


The companies filed competing proposals in 2013 and then attempted to work together, and now they have reverted to opposing plans. The changing dynamic between the companies led to seven deadline extensions.

PACE Financing Program Making Headway in Tompkins County

by Marcia Lynch, Tompkins County Public Information Office


A recent public workshop session explored the Energize NY program, with a gathering made up mostly of Tompkins County and City of Ithaca officials participating in a telephone conference with Joe Del Sindaco of Energize NY Finance, the entity established by New York State to operate the State's property assessed clean energy (PACE) program.

The PACE program offers low-cost long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, supporting up to the entire project cost, for owners of existing non-residential properties, with repayments collected by the municipality through a charge on the tax bill. Today's session following briefings conducted here last November, including to the Legislature's Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee.

Martha Robertson sees PACE financing as a "huge opportunity." Photo courtesy of Shaleshock Media.

To offer this option for energy upgrades, a municipality with senior tax lien authority (such as the County or City of Ithaca) would approve the program, through local law, within its taxing jurisdiction and request to join, at no charge, the Energy Improvement Corporation (EIC), a not-for-profit Local Development Corporation. 

The jurisdiction would also have to sign a related municipal agreement with the EIC, which is funded the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the U.S. Department of Energy, and revenue from the financings. The initiative, according to Del Sindaco, would produce both environmental and economic benefits, through the improvements themselves and jobs created for the upgrade projects.


The charge would be considered a tax lien. Several workshop participants questioned how that would be handled and what could happen if a property went bankrupt and defaulted on its obligation. Del Sindaco said a Loan Loss Reserve Fund would make the municipality whole in the unlikely case of default.


City of Ithaca Common Council member Cynthia Brock expressed some initial apprehension about the program, in light of what she sees as potential vulnerability of the City with its small size and limited properties diversity. County Administrator Joe Mareane acknowledged some risk, but considered it small in light of past experience in recovering tax liabilities at auction.  Legislator Martha Robertson remarked, "I think this is a huge opportunity." "This is a new tool and we absolutely need it," she said.


For Tompkins County, today's in-depth discussion is the final step before beginning the process toward legislative authorization of the Energize program. The matter will go through Legislature committee review, with drafting of a proposed local law and scheduling a public hearing, a process Administrator Mareane expects to take four to six weeks.

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, February 27, 2015

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Brutal Winter Underscores Importance of Home Energy Upgrades 
By Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Campaign Coordinator

It's been a tough winter. Near record levels of snow and cold are making it difficult for Tompkins County residents to pay the big bills that go with keeping warm. It's a stark reminder that nature is in control.

But there are steps you can take to ward off the cold and prevent snow from damaging your homes. Heat, for example, can escape through your attic and roof if there are cracks or insufficient insulation; this, in turn, draws cold air into your basement through cracks and leaks.
Proper insulation of the attic rafters or ceiling joists will help prevent damaging ice dams from forming. Photo credit: Cool Flat Roof.

At the same time, lack of insulation on the attic rafters and ceiling joints and an inadequate vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation can cause harmful ice dams from forming outside on the eaves of the house.

Have you had a whole home energy upgrade? If not, it's never too late. You probably know neighbors who have sealed and insulated their home, reducing their energy bills, making their homes more comfortable and safe. It's easy:

  1. Get a no-cost energy assessment. Find the application form and a list of local contractors at or stop by the offices of Cooperative Extension at 615 Willow Ave.
  2. Get the report. The contractor you choose will provide you with an analysis of your home and point out the areas where you can make your home safer, more comfortable, and cut down on energy use. They can also share with you available financial incentives.
  3. Upgrade your home. Craft your work plan according to your budget, your priorities and the incentives available to you.

Energy upgrades are simple. They can keep the heat in and save you money. They support local jobs; 12 new energy upgrades produce one living wage job. They also reduce our county's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Heating and electricity represent over 40% of energy use and CO2 emissions in Tompkins County so taking these steps can have a big impact not just on your energy bills but also on the threat that runaway climate change poses to future generations.

Want to stop heating the outdoors? Visit to learn more!




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: Reforming the Energy Vision in NY

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates the state's electricity industry, is not known for challenging the status quo. So, several months ago, when it rolled out Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), a program aiming to give customers more choice and a greater role in managing and sourcing their electricity, a healthy dose of skepticism was in order.


The PSC has been traveling around the state, presenting the ideas behind REV and holding public hearings to gather feedback on its proposals. Calling for a new business model that would base the electric system on distributed energy resources, REV at first glance appears to position New York as a national leader in tackling grid modernization and promoting integration of renewable energy into the state's power system.


According to the PSC, REV would turn the state's utilities into what it calls "distributed system platform providers." This new approach would enable the state's utilities to track, trade, and forecast assets like rooftop solar, customer-sited co-generation systems, demand response, energy efficiency, and energy storage.


The big question regarding REV is whether the existing utilities should serve as the vehicle for managing and coordinating distributed energy resources. Think about it: if the utilities are both purchasing energy and managing the system, that's a direct conflict of interest. It's not hard to imagine utilities favoring their own assets over those of other parties. As many observers have pointed out, It's crucial for the entity governing the distribution of energy to be independent.


Unfortunately, it seems as if utilities have gained the upper hand in controlling the process. If they succeed, it will choke off a key source of innovation. Right now utility revenues are based on how much electricity the utility sells; the more it sells, the more revenue it gets. With utilities in charge of the process, what incentive will they have to find other ways to generate revenue?


To its credit, the PSC is also considering allowing municipalities to pool the electric load from residents, businesses, and institutions and collectively purchase electricity, a process known as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). CCAs are already allowed in several states, including California, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, and Massachusetts. If the PSC allows CCAs in New York, it would provide some check against the power of the utilities. 


In any case, the key point is fairly straightforward: as New York turns more from fossil fuels toward alternative energy, it's important that major utilities not dominate the process. Only if citizens make their views known to the commission, however, will they be stopped. Comments may be submitted to the PSC by clicking here.  


Peter Bardaglio 

TCCPI Coordinator
Upgrade Upstate

Visit to get a no-cost or reduced-cost energy assessment. Learn which rebates, tax credits, and loans you qualify for to help pay for work. Check out how-to videos for low-cost/no-cost improvements and testimonial videos of Tompkins County residents who have made upgrades. Upgrade Upstate is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.