The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has announced the first seven communities that have met the criteria for designation as Clean Energy Communities. The municipalities are being recognized for their leadership in reducing energy use, cutting costs and driving clean energy locally.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble and Office Harry Woltman with the police department’s EV cruiser.
The Hudson Valley municipalities being recognized by NYSERDA are Ulster County, the Town of New Castle, the Village of Dobbs Ferry, the City of Kingston and the Town of Red Hook. The Towns of Smithtown and Huntington, both on Long Island, round out the group of the first seven communities statewide to be designated.
“This is very much in keeping with the Hudson Valley’s history of environmental stewardship,“ said Pat Pomeroy, executive director of the Newburgh-based Hudson Valley Regional Council, in making the announcement Tuesday. “We are delighted but not surprised, because our team here has worked closely with the designated communities.”
Ulster County (pop. 180,143) is the first designated county statewide and first large community. Town of New Castle (pop. 18,067) is the first designated small community. Village of Dobbs Ferry (pop. 11,131) is the second designated small community. City of Kingston (pop. 23,436) is the first designated city. Red Hook (pop. 11,319) is the first designated community in Dutchess County and the fourth township in the state.
Under the program, grants are available to 18 communities in each region of the state. All city, town, village, and county governments, tribes, and nations may apply. The grants range in size from $50,000 to $250,000 depending on the community’s population. No local match is required.
The $16 million Clean Energy Communities initiative supports local government leaders across the State to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable development projects in their communities. Clean Energy Communities advances the Governor’s Reforming the Energy (REV) strategy by demonstrating the importance of communities in helping New York reach its Clean Energy Standard of 50 percent of the state’s electricity coming from renewable energy resources by 2030.
To obtain a Clean Energy Communities designation, a municipality must document its success at completing at least four of 10 “high impact actions” that save energy and money and contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions – activities like tracking of energy use in municipal buildings, training for improved energy code enforcement, and policies to support solar energy.
A look at just one of the high-impact actions—conversion to LED street lights—shows that potential savings are sizable. A 2014 NYSERDA report calculated that if the 1.4 million street lights outside of New York City were retrofitted with LEDs, the resulting annual financial savings from reduced energy use would be about $28 million, with another $67 million in annual savings from reduced maintenance costs. The potential energy savings from replacing these street lights was estimated to be 524 gigawatt hours annually—an equivalent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction of 254,000 metric tons. In the Mid-Hudson Region, the potential energy savings from conversions in Central Hudson Gas & Electric and Orange & Rockland Utilities territories is over 28 million kwh per year, with a cost savings of more than $1.8 million.
To help administer the program, the Hudson Valley Regional Council has deployed three Clean Energy Communities coordinators, Senior Planner Carla Castillo and program coordinators Europa McGovern and Niklas Moran. The three work closely with communities to help them identify and document their high-impact actions and “are proud to have assisted the designated Mid-Hudson Region municipalities with achieving Clean Energy Communities designation,” said Pomeroy.
As an organization of the seven Mid-Hudson county governments, HVRC offers a regional perspective and provides planning, education and outreach, and advocacy services. The council covers the counties of Sullivan, Putnam, Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, and Westchester, and the municipalities within them. HVRC contracts with the Capital District Regional Planning Commission to perform this work for NYSERDA.
Municipalities – Background
Ulster County’s four high impact actions were: Climate Smart Communities Certification, Energize NY Finance, Clean Fleets and Benchmarking.
“County Executive Mike Hein is so enthusiastic about this work,” said Ulster County Office of the Environment Coordinator Amanda LaValle. “Under his leadership, we’ve been able to do a lot that’s beyond the scope of this program.” As an example, LaValle cites the county’s decision to source 100 percent of its power from renewable sources, buying offsets for its operations.
New Castle completed Community Choice Aggregation, Energize NY, Benchmarking and NYS Unified Solar Permit.
Rob Greenstein, Supervisor of the Town of New Castle, said, “The Town of New Castle is proud to be the first community in its size range (<40,000 people) in the Mid-Hudson Region to achieve the Clean Energy Community designation. Since the adoption of the Town’s Climate Action Plan in 2011, climate change mitigation and adaptation has been a priority in the New Castle community. This designation has highlighted the importance that we place on renewable energy and sustainability. We are excited to begin to play a heightened role in the State’s attempts to reform the energy landscape of New York State and to develop well-designed, impactful clean energy projects.”
Dobbs Ferry completed Solarize, Climate Smart Communities Certification, LED Street Lights, Clean Fleets, NYS Unified Solar Permit and Benchmarking.
“It starts with people; volunteers who are committed to putting in the time and effort to help educate the community on the benefits and programs which can achieve a more sustainable community,” said Dobbs Ferry Mayor Hartley Connett. “The village’s Energy Task Force – a dedicated group of people led by Nina Orville – have been a critical force behind the village’s accomplishments. Another factor is the importance of using prudent economic analysis in assessing what programs make sense, and how much. Using basic return models as part of the review process, the village has committed even greater investment into the initiatives, which has led in turn to even greater returns and savings over time.”
The City of Kingston completed these high-impact clean energy actions: Clean Fleets, Benchmarking, Climate Smart Communities Certification and Energize NY Finance.
“The City of Kingston has a track record for being a model of sustainability for communities across New York State and we are proud to be New York’s first city to be declared a Clean Energy Community,” said Mayor Steve Noble. “I am so proud of our staff and volunteers who have worked diligently to bring us to this point. I look forward to continuing to demonstrate that by making sustainability a priority, communities can and will thrive.”
Red Hook completed these high impact actions: Solarize, Energy Code Enforcement Training, Benchmarking and NYS Unified Solar Permit.
Town Supervisor Robert McKeon said, “The Town of Red Hook is pleased to be recognized as the first municipality in Dutchess County and only the fourth township in NY to achieve this milestone. The designation is simply an acknowledgement of our steadfast commitment to create a healthier and more sustainable community for our residents. We’re excited to once again partner with NYSERDA to further adoption of Red Hook’s Climate Action Plan and add additional projects to spur our local economies. Folks may not realize that energy and energy efficiency jobs now amount to more than all the fossil fuel industries combined. In addition to the projects listed below, Red Hook is beginning an Energize NY program, installing electric vehicle charging stations at Town Hall and converting our street lights to LEDs.”
Clean Energy Communities – Background
Cities, counties, towns and villages that complete at least four of 10 high-impact clean energy actions are designated Clean Energy Communities and are eligible to apply for funding of up to $250,000 with no local cost share with the option of receiving up to 25 percent paid in advance to support additional clean energy projects. At least two of the four actions must have been completed after August 1, 2016. NYSERDA is accepting applications for funding on a rolling basis through September 30, 2019 or until funds are exhausted, whichever comes first. Funds are being provided through the Clean Energy Fund and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Clean Energy Community Coordinators are available at no charge to support cash- or resource-strapped communities to develop and prioritize clean energy goals; access easy-to-use resources such as guidance documents and case studies; and take advantage of available funding and technical assistance opportunities.
More than 100 communities statewide are engaged with the Clean Energy Communities program. For more information on Clean Energy Communities, visit https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/cec.
 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Street Lighting in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges, December 2014 (Revised January 2015), Report Number 14-42: p. S-2.
 One gigawatt hour (GWh) equals 1,000 megawatt hours MWh); one MWh equals 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh).
 Using an avoided emissions rate of 0.485 metric tons per MWh, derived from US EPA’s AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT) tool, available at https://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/avoided-emissions-and-generation-tool-avert.