Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act into law, putting the state on a path to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 and net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy.
"We understand that the governor has set those targets, and it's part of our job to implement those targets," said Leslie Orzetti, executive director of the Otsego County Conservation Association and leadership committee member of the Otsego County Energy Task Force.
The task force's purpose is to "create a practical, actionable plan to address the current and future energy needs of Otsego County," according to a document from the first task force meeting. The goal is adopt an official plan in October 2020.
Orzetti said greenhouse gas emissions were always on the mind of the task force, but with the signing of the bill, there are more concrete goals to take into consideration when forming the policy.
The task force is made up of four working groups. These groups are "Buildings and Efficiency," which will identify methods to improve energy efficiency in existing structures and new construction; "Energy Supply and Distribution," which will identify and measure current and future energy supply and quantity; "Economic Development," which will identify current energy needs of the business community and future economic development; and "Environment," which will identify and asses current and future environmental impacts relating to energy usage and development.
Danny Lapin, OCCA environmental planner and member of the "Environmental" and "Economic Development" task force boards, said the county facilitated access by businesses to clean energy by partnering with Energize NY, a non-profit local development corporation, to provide Property Assessed Clean Energy financing. Property owners in Otsego County can use Energize NY PACE to finance upgrades that will reduce energy costs and carbon footprint and improve the comfort of their buildings, according to Otsego County's website.
Otsego County also became a "Climate Smart Community" about two months ago, Lapin said. "Climate Smart Communities" is a state initiative to help local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate, according to https://climatesmart.ny.gov/. The county is in the process of applying for grant funding that would provide communities with technical assistance to help local governments take action against climate change, Lapin said.
The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce last month released an energy and infrastructure policy that aims to educate business leaders and community members to resources that promote energy efficiency and conservation, said Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president. One of the goals of the policy is to help businesses obtain energy audits, and at least 10 member businesses are engaging in energy audit programs so far, she said. All forms of energy including wind, solar, natural gas, hydro as well as geothermal, ground and air source heat pumps will be supported, according to the policy.
Heegan said Otsego County chamber members seeks further direction from Cuomo and his administration about utilizing alternate means of energy. She added that the chamber would like to invite Cuomo to a round table to listen to the county's business and energy needs.
Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.