The North Country

By Jamie Rogers, Clean Energy Communities Coordinator

 

The North Country region is comprised of the seven northernmost counties in New York, encompassing over 40,000 square miles of farmland, lakes, mountains and forests, much of it within the Adirondack Park. With towns and villages linked by winding roads, it can take more than 4 hours to drive across the North Country, from the shores of Lake Champlain to the shores of Lake Ontario. Three sides of this incredibly beautiful region are bordered by water, with Lake Ontario to the east, the St. Lawrence River to the north and Lake Champlain to the east.

In the North Country, only four municipalities have a population greater than 40,000 residents; all four are counties. The smallest county in the North Country in population is Hamilton, with just 4,800 residents. The largest, Jefferson County, has a population of more than 116,000.

In the least populated towns and villages, the small tax base means few resources or capacity for clean energy initiatives. With no municipal staff, the single North Country Clean Energy Communities coordinator provides a vital link between cash-strapped municipalities and the clean energy improvements that can save them money. To help the small municipalities like the Town of Leyden or the Village of Champlain take advantage of the CEC program, I attended numerous public meeting and provided regular hands-on assistance to complete the action items and submit projects to be approved by NYSERDA.

In the larger municipalities, planning department staff recognized the value of CEC and were quick to get approval from their town, village and county boards to move forward. These municipal staff were engaged through the entire CEC program and served as the liaisons between the CEC coordinator and elected officials. These staff members have experience in energy efficiency programs, which helped them make the case for CEC and move forward more quickly than in the smaller communities.

In concert with CEC, ANCA is assisting 12 municipalities in an aggregation LED streetlight project that will convert nearly 2,000 lights. This may sound like a small number to many, but most of our rural communities have between 12 and 125 lights.
More than any other NYSERDA program in the North Country, the CEC has resulted in greater understanding of the value and importance of clean energy and efficiency measures at the municipal level. Going forward, the smallest of the communities we worked with will still need assistance if they are to continue making progress and contributing to New York’s energy goals.

As ANCA’s CEC program wound down this summer, we were proud to have participated in the Clean Energy Communities program. It is very rewarding assisting municipalities in achieving clean energy progress that they otherwise would not have had the capacity to complete for their residents.