Chamber Connections by Barbara Ann Heegan: Energy task force should yield results

The Otsego County Energy Task Force initiative led by Meg Kennedy and Michelle Farwell of the Otsego County Board of Representatives is a positive initiative for our county. The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce supports this work and is proud to be part of the task force, in which I serve as chair of the Economic Development Committee.

The Leadership Team of the Energy County Task Force includes Kennedy and Farwell, Oneonta Town Supervisor Robert Wood, Otsego County Conservation Association Executive Director Amy Wyatt and City of Oneonta Engineer Greg Mattice. At the Feb. 5 task force meeting, the Leadership Team introduced Jim Yienger of Climate Action Associates, who will be the task force facilitator, and we are excited to have him and his expertise guiding us in this process.

The Economic Development Committee members of the energy task force include Danny Lapin, Otsego County representative and OCCA planner; Jody Zakrevsky, chief executive officer of Otsego Now; Phoebe K. Schreiner, executive director of the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship; Dr. Karl Seeley, professor of economics at Hartwick College, and technical advisers Wayne Mellor and Dan Sullivan.

The items we have been working on include:

• developing goals and objectives to guide economic development and business growth and retention with respect to energy sources, energy needs, uses and efficiencies.

• working out how these efforts may be implemented and how Otsego County can meet the New York State Clean Energy Standards while growing our economy.

• recognizing that county businesses and residents will need significant education and financial incentives on changing processes and technologies that now can save them money while helping our communities meet the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals.

• better educating businesses on the new technologies available to help meet important conservation and efficiency goals. We already have recent success stories where making these connections have brought results.

• working on a value proposition of the cost/benefit ratio of using air source heat pumps for residential heating and geo-thermal for new commercial construction.

• starting discussions with the key organizations in our region on how to better prepare our students for the growing job market in clean energy technologies.

The process of this energy task force has brought forward important dialogue across the county, and all the members of the task force have been engaged in sharing information and bringing forward valuable recommendations to be considered and included in the energy road plan. I look forward to the final energy plan being a long-term blueprint to focus and guide efforts and actions toward a defined energy vision. Such a plan articulates goals and develops strategies and actions to meet the goals, and identifies and allocates resources to ensure effective completion of these strategies. As we continue through this productive process, items we look toward in the energy plan are:

• Proactivity, which outlines deliberate actions based on clearly articulated government, business and community priorities.

• Comprehension, which encompasses a broad scope, based on community and business priorities, and identifies and pursues high payoff opportunities through coordinated planning and sustained effort.

• Access to capital, which allows decisions that require multi-year investments or planning and can stage a series of projects to undertake as funds become available from various incentive programs such as programs with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

• Sustainablity, which establishes a path forward that will maintain relevancy beyond a current administration.

We encourage businesses to reach out to the Otsego County Chamber so we can connect you to the resources that can assist with your business energy needs. 

Barbara Ann Heegan is president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.

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