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Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Current Projects ♦ Energy Strategy ♦ Plans and Studies ♦ Tools, Links, and Resources

The Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Chapter (2.3 MB) of the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan states that

Tompkins County should be a place where the energy system meets community needs without contributing additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.   

It is the policy of Tompkins County to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach a minimum 80 percent reduction from 2008 levels by 2050 and reduce reliance on fossil fuels across all sectors.
  • Improve the energy efficiency of all components of the community energy system.
  • Increase the use of local and regional renewable energy sources and technologies.
  • Increase carbon capture and storage in the county’s forests, wetlands, and soils.
  • Reduce the amount of material disposed of in landfills.

Current Projects

Energy Focus Area Study

Tompkins County and the Tompkins County IDA funded a study to evaluate the energy infrastructure in four areas that are key to the community's economic development and where significant new development is anticipated in the next ten years.  The study evaluated electrical and natural gas infrastructure in downtown Ithaca including the waterfront district, on South Hill, on East Hill (Collegetown and the East Hill Plaza area), and along Warren Road north and south of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Airport.  The study found that energy infrastructure should be adequate to support anticipated growth in all areas with the exception of natural gas in the area along Warren Road.  The study also evaluated whether achieving efficiencies and transitioning to electric thermal energy for residential and commercial uses could free up natural gas capacity for projected industrial development in the Warren Road area and found that the potential exists to accommodate expected demand from industrial uses. The final Tompkins County Energy Focus Area Study (0.9 MB) is available.

Green Energy Incentives Assessment Project

TheTompkins County Industrial Development Agency offers tax abatements to specific new building development projects, for a variety of reasons, including economic development and promotion of higher density development. Given the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in new construction, consideration is being given to providing incentives for green building design and construction, specifically to promote low-energy and low-carbon buildings. This project develops criteria and justification for such incentives. The project was informed by a series of conversations with developers, using specific projects as examples, to explore issues such as the level of energy efficiency developers typically seek without incentives, what further efficiency is possible, and associated returns on energy investments. The project then evaluated possible energy efficiency standards which could serve as energy goals for such incentives, and the associated level/range of incentives and concluded with recommending specific rating systems, and a measurement protocol to assess the success of the program.

Green Energy Incentives Assessment Project: Final Report (2016) (0.9 MB)

Energize NY Financing  

Energize NY PACE Finance is low cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through Energize NY on behalf of Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca.  The financing works seamlessly with energy incentive programs offered by NYSEG and NYSERDA. Energize NY PACE Finance differs from commercial building loans in the following ways:

  • Eligibility is based on the value of the building and the potential energy savings of the project, not on the property owners credit scores
  • Financing is available for up to 100% of the project cost
  • No upfront payments required
  • Longer terms, up to 20 years
  • Financing is repaid through an annual charge that is collected on the property’s tax bill like other municipally provided improvements like sewer, water and sidewalks
  • Financing transfers automatically to a new owner if it is sold

Energize NY PACE Finance is available to not-for-profit or commercially owned properties located in Tompkins County and City of Ithaca for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Commercial properties include but are not limited to: offices, retail spaces, healthcare facilities, hospitality facilities, incorporated multifamily properties, cooperative multifamily properties, industrial buildings, warehouses, manufacturing, nonprofits, religious houses of worship, private schools and colleges, and more. Contact EnergizeNY.org to find out if Energize NY financing is a good option for you.

Municipal Tools to Promote Deployment of Renewable Energy Systems

The Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability has completed an initiative to provide consistent guidelines to municipalities in their regulations in order to balance the need to protect residents and community character and the need to encourage the deployment of renewable energy systems. This initiative supports appropriate deployment of renewable energy systems in order to achieve the County's greenhouse gas emissions goals to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and address public concerns about the impacts of that deployment.

The Department hosted two public meetings to gather public input on draft recommendations to achieve this balance. The Department also held a meeting with municipal officials to share their draft recommendations and the comments received from the public.

The full report on the project is now available as well as a summary of the Department’s recommendations.

Tools to Promote and Regulate the Deployment of Renewable Energy Systems (June 2017) (1.75 MB)

Summary of Recommendations for the Deployment of Solar Energy Systems and Wind Energy Systems (2017)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Use Inventories

The Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability has completed two greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use inventories for the year 2014. The purpose of the inventories is to measure progress towards meeting the County's goal of reducing GHG emissions by at least 2% of 2008 base year emissions per year to reach, at a minimum, an 80% reduction from 2008 levels by 2050.

The Community Inventory accounts for all GHG emissions from Tompkins County, including governments, higher education facilities, residents, non-profit organizations, and businesses. The County Government Operations Inventory accounts for all GHG emissions associated with Tompkins County government operations, including the County's buildings and facilities as well as its vehicle fleet and off-road equipment.

These reports summarize the GHG emissions produced for the 2014 calendar year, while also providing information regarding energy use and, in the case of County governement operations, energy costs. Comparisons are also provided between 2014 and 2008 findings.

Presentation to the County Legislature: September 20, 2016 (0.8 MB)

Press Release: September 16, 2016

Community Inventory Documents

Executive Summary - 2014 Community GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory (0.5 MB)

2014 Community GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory (2.0 MB)

County Government Operations Inventory Documents

Executive Summary - 2014 County Government GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory (0.2 MB)

Full County Government Inventory with Appendices (2.8 MB)

Tompkins County Energy Roadmap

The Energy Roadmap was one of ten local measures identified in the 2020 Energy Strategy (0.2 MB) to help prepare the community to achieve its stated greenhouse gas emissions goals of 80% reduction in emissions over 2008 levels by 2050.  The Roadmap was developed to help guide activities around energy-related decision making and includes an assessment of the potential of various local renewable energy sources to power the community, as well as the role that energy efficiency and demand management can play in reducing energy demand.  The Roadmap puts those assessments into the context of the overall community energy picture today and projected in 2050 to identify scenarios for how both energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions goals can be met. The Tompkins County Energy Roadmap was unanimously accepted by the Legislature on April 19, 2016. See the presentation given to the Legislature here (1.7 MB).

Energy Roadmap – Abridged (Contents, Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations) (0.3 MB)

Energy Roadmap - Complete (7.1 MB) (March 2016)

Collaboration on Energy and Economic Development

Addressing our community’s energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions poses an immense challenge that demands immediate action and developing a vibrant local economy that provides more good jobs is a top priority of County government. Tompkins County Area Development, the County’s designated economic development agency, and the Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability, which provides analysis and planning to address community energy and greenhouse gas emissions, have agreed to collaborate on addressing long-term and immediate energy needs and emissions in ways that contribute to a vital local economy. This collaboration will include bringing a broad variety of voices to the discussion of community goals and strategies, as well as tangible steps to meet both energy and economic development goals.

While both organizations believe that overall goals for strengthening the local economy and reaching our energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets are compatible and can be mutually reinforcing, we also recognize that there may be specific instances where they come into conflict. In such cases the County's Energy Fund and the Industrial Development Agency’s Tax Incentive tools will be employed in an attempt to find a mutual gains solution to the perceived conflict. It is likely that some instances will arise where no clear mutually beneficial solution can be identified and, in such cases, the attempt to meet both goals will need to be weighed in making a decision.

Visit TCAD’s website to download the report: Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force - Final Report, June 13, 2026.

West Dryden Road Pipeline

In 2014 NYSEG proposed a gas pipeline that would start in the Village of Freeville and extend for seven miles along West Dryden Road to Warren Road in the Town of Lansing. It is commonly called the West Dryden Road pipeline. In its final report last June, the Task Force identified the West Dryden Road pipeline as a critical issue and recommended working with NYSEG and the Public Service Commission to find alternatives that would support economic growth while reducing local greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result of the Task Force’s efforts, NYSEG has agreed to consider, and has presented to the New York State Public Service Commission for review, a potential alternative approach. For additional information read:

Tompkins County press release: NYSEG Agrees to Consider Alternative Approach to West Dryden Road Pipeline. Draft Analysis Presented to Public Service Commission for Review

FAQ: The Energy and Economic Development Task Force and the West Dryden Road Pipeline

Description of Alternative Approach: Letter from Mark S. Lynch, President and CEO of NYSEG, to NYS Public Service Commission – January 23, 2017


2020 Energy Strategy

The Tompkins County Legislature has adopted a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the community by at least 80% from 2008 levels by 2050. The first step along that path is to achieve a 20% reduction by 2020. The strategy for how this goal can be achieved was endorsed by the Legislature in September, 2010 and serves as a guide for energy and emissions work being done in the community. 

The conclusion of the Tompkins County 2020 Energy Strategy is that by proactively implementing programs and solutions to reduce energy use, it is possible for the Tompkins County community to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020. In order to do so, actions must be undertaken by all sectors of the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 277,512 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in order to achieve the target emissions in 2020 of 938,334 MtC02e; emissions that are 20% below 2008 levels. The strategies described in the document total 290,691 MtCO2e, or 5% over the required emissions reduction.

Tompkins County 2020 Energy Strategy (0.2 MB) (2010)


Plans and Studies 

Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Sustainability Plan (2013)


Tools, Links, and Resources

EPA Climate Showcase Communities: Community That Works

EcoVillage at Ithaca: Principles, Best Practices & Lessons Learned (0.9 MB) (2012)

Draft Pedestrian Neighborhood Regulations (0.1 MB) (2012)