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Ithaca, New York, Embraces Robust Electrification Plan

City teams up with partner to implement nearly $2 million in green projects

By Maura Keller, Contributing Writer  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Ithaca Green New Deal Aims to Electrify 6,000 Buildings

Dotting the cities and towns across the United States are thousands of institutional and commercial buildings serving the community’s needs for restaurants, hospitals, schools, offices, retail shops and places of worship, to name a few. 

From state-of-the-art newly constructed buildings to early-1900s gems that need upgrades and repairs, these buildings are as varied as the occupants. As many institutional and commercial structures face upgrades, attention is being paid to clean energy investments, resulting in decarbonized buildings that are “green and clean.”  

According to Rebecca Evans, director of sustainability for the city of Ithaca, New York, in any given year, approximately 40-50 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the city are a result of thermal loads – or the heating of local buildings.  

In response to this, Ithaca and BlocPower, a company that uses proprietary technology to analyze, finance and upgrade homes and commercial buildings with the latest in energy-efficient, electric technology, announced an initiative to complete a series of decarbonization projects on commercial buildings throughout the city. Ranging from small businesses to city landmarks and cultural institutions, these green building projects, called the Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND), represent $1.9 million in clean energy investments, with nearly $1.4 million of that amount being subsidized by eligible state and federal incentives.  

Specifically, IGND is working on the electrification of these buildings.  

“To mitigate the emissions, the city of Ithaca sought a program manager that could serve as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for building owners navigating the often-complex journey toward electrification,” Evans says. 

The city was looking for an entity that could provide financing that offered no money down on equipment and labor, as well as structures that allow, and encourage, financing for those with low or no credit, which it achieved through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Loan Loss Reserve program.  

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“We also prioritized working with an organization that shared values of economic and social equity that could contribute to workforce development and affordability,” Evans says. Ithaca released a request for proposal in 2021 and ultimately selected BlocPower to be the city’s designated clean technology partner to implement the designated building electrification projects, weatherization upgrades, as well as other IGND programs.  

As Evans explains, the major goals of building electrification are to reduce carbon emissions, improve overall thermal comfort, and decrease energy burden where possible. 

Ethan Bodnaruk, program manager, BlocPower, says his organization and the city partner in a number of ways to expand building electrification education and outreach programs in the community.  

“BlocPower supplies the city with BlocMaps, the company’s machine learning software solution that equips decision makers in Ithaca with mapping tools and building analytics to strategically manage and plan electrification projects,” Bodnaruk says. The city has also shared contacts of building owners who have expressed interest in electrification efforts that BlocPower has helped shepherd through incentive application processes. What’s more, BlocPower and the city are increasingly working together to identify opportunities to leverage federal, state and local funding. 

“Both teams will collaborate on sustainability initiatives in the community, most recently with Earth Day events, and a presentation from BlocPower during a meeting of Ithaca’s?Sustainability and Climate Justice Commission,” Bodnaruk says. 

And although IGND does not necessarily operate in “phases,” mostly because “following the money” is often the nature of sustainability/climate work, there are critical, foundational programs that need to be in place for a successful decarbonization initiative: 

  • Climate justice policy  
  • Electrification program 
  • Community choice aggregation and distributed energy resource (DER) investment  
  • Micromobility and public transit  

“Between these four programs, we are set up to reduce emissions by approximately 97 percent,” Evans says.  

Continue Reading: Energy

Ithaca, New York, Embraces Robust Electrification Plan

Ithaca Green New Deal Aims to Electrify 6,000 Buildings

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  posted on 5/14/2024   Article Use Policy

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