Upstate Economic Development – Part Two

(#259) – Energy policy is no longer the exclusive realm of distant bureaucrats and energy companies.  As indicated last week, in NYS access to significant funding of local and regional economic development focuses on the energy sector of the economy and has very prescribed requirements. At the heart of this initiative is the commitment of government to take climate change and the economic realities of the post-peak era of fossil fuels seriously.

The Climate Smart Communities Pledge is a statewide initiative to help municipalities, business and residents to engage in cost effective efforts to reduce fossil fuel use.  It provides a range of strategies to organize and collect fossil fuel data, develop plans for reduction in fossil fuel use and accurately measure the results of their efforts. Outcomes from this initiative include:

  1. reduced cost of operation of municipal buildings and vehicles
  2. savings on energy use by residents and businesses
  3. promotion of job creation and new business development
  4.  safer, more comfortable and efficient homes, businesses and municipal buildings.

Sullivan County has signed the Climate Smart Communities Pledge and has developed a Roadmap to Climate Action Planning.  Its Office of Sustainable Energy has developed user-friendly tools and measures, customized for our specific local needs based on a pilot project.  These tools and measures as well as technical assistance for planning and implementation are now available to every town and its residents.  Towns that sign the Climate Smart Communities Pledge and develop Climate Action Plans as outlined above, will receive preferred status as municipal or business applicants for projects such as a new fire house, town hall or truck garage or retrofits of these and other buildings as well as funding for vehicles using alternative fuels and the infrastructure to support this transition.

The radical reduction in the cost of solar electric panels and their increasing efficiency as well as their well known ease of installment, provide another major new development possibility. Towns and private owners hold large numbers of land tracts that are marginal for productive use.  These could become municipal or private cooperative solar electric farms that generate large amounts of clean, renewable energy.  Participation by citizens in a municipal solar power utility could be voluntary and have a variety of different financial benefits under the umbrella of a locally managed electricity district.

Cheaper, cleaner and smarter energy would attract new business and save subscribers money. If several towns decided to form a regional corporation to develop local power authorities, light industry to fabricate the solar system parts would come with their good paying jobs. All of the other sectors of the local economy would benefit.  Bio-mass energy production projects with their combined heat and electricity generation would become a reality and provide not only safe and more affordable energy but income to our farmers and forest land owners.

By June, a county-wide Climate Action Advisory Board will be appointed. Stay tuned for news on its meeting schedule.  This month, form your town Climate Action Plan group or urge an already formed town group to sign the Climate Smart Communities Pledge. If you need or want help, call 807-0578.

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