NORWICH — The City of Norwich has begun implementing action items that will ultimately lead to the city's designation as a Clean Energy Community (CEC), a program through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The Clean Energy Community program provides incentives for municipalities to implement things like LED street lights, clean energy upgrades like solar panels, "clean fleets" for police and fire departments, and more.
According to Alderman Dave Zieno, the city must complete at least four action items to earn a CEC designation. Additionally, each item will also award the city points that, when a certain amount is earned, the city will receive grant funding from NYSERDA.
"Last year, we already moved ahead with the LED street lighting. So we had that one down, and then we passed three other resolutions Tuesday," said Zieno. "That’s what it takes to be designated, is to have at least four of these items. So we should be on our way to receiving that designation."
During the common council meeting held on Tuesday, April 26, the City of Norwich Common Council voted in favor of moving forward with Unified Solar Permits, training for the code enforcement department, and energy benchmarking.
"The Unified Solar Permit is, as a homeowner and you're trying to, say, convert to solar energy, you have to go through permitting processes. This helps to streamline that process, provides one permit, New York State provides that. We’re going to adopt that process, make it easier for people," Zieno explained. "Code enforcement is going to receive training on energy efficiency, in addition to what they’ve already had. And then we’re going to do some benchmarking and do some reporting on our energy usage. The finance department is going to take up that."
Zieno said not only will the projects save the city money by lowering energy costs, these three additional items will also be of little or no cost to implement.
"We’ve already paid for the LED lights. The Unified Solar Permit is through NYSERDA, there’s not really a cost to that. There is a small cost probably for code enforcement training, but our code enforcement officers are required to get regular training. We’ve budgeted for those things," he said. "The benchmarking is more internal bookkeeping and reporting so, again, not an additional cost."
"So we’ve kind of selected some of the things that we can jump right into without much cost and start accumulating points, and then we can start looking at maybe some of the others," he added.
Once these action items are established the city will earn its designation as a CEC, and receive a $5,000 grant for getting designated. It will also earn Norwich 2,400 points, just 600 points away from the first point tier and a $10,000 grant.
The grant money that could come from establishing action items could then be used to complete more energy efficiency projects, and in turn lead to more grant funding. Zieno said the city will begin looking into other possible action items at tonight's joint committee meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at One Court Plaza.
"We’ve got some additional information, we’re going to start looking at some of these actions to see what we can start implementing. We’ve got some more information from NYSERDA, and our community development director has already started outlining some of these things, and we’re going to start looking at them at our next committee meeting," he said.
Zieno said he's been pushing for the City of Norwich to get designated as a Clean Energy Community for several years, and he's happy to see city staff working together to achieve this goal.
"The Clean Energy Community program was something that I identified probably about four years ago, and at that time it was even more lucrative than it is now. Some of the funding that they’ve provided for things has been used up. There’s still funding available for some of the things, so that’s why I think it’s important for us to move forward with this," he said.
"The great thing is that I wanted to make those improvements, the mayor also wants to help homeowners with improvements for their homes, which NYSERDA also has. So it seemed like a good fit for the city, and we both agreed that this is a great program," he continued. "I’ve got to thank the mayor for pushing this actually, because it’s one thing for us on the council to vote for something, but then you’ve got to do the legwork. So that’s where the staff of the City of Norwich comes in, and he’s been very good about giving them the direction to move ahead with these things."
Ultimately, he believes the city being designated as a CEC and continuing to work on clean energy initiatives and projects will benefit the city, its residents, and the environment.
"The whole point is that not only is it good for the environment, but it saves money at the same time. So it’s a win-win for everybody, and again, that’s why I kind of latched onto this as one of the best programs that the state has. And the state has been emphasizing clean energy for a number of years," said Zieno. "My feeling is, these are all coming from either federal or state funds. We’ve already paid our taxes in, we might as well get some of it back for some of these programs. If that’s where it’s going to go, Norwich might as well get it."