Tompkins County should be a place where the energy system meets community needs without contributing additional greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere. The Department of Planning and Sustainability is working to make this a reality.
Recent History of Inventories, Plans and Strategies
Although Tompkins County has been actively working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the late 1990s, recent work includes the following.
When the 2020 Energy Strategy was first prepared in 2010, it identified ten local actions that when taken together with other local, state, and federal actions would lead the community to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at least 20 percent by 2020, the first increment along the path to achieving the community GHG emissions goal of an 80 percent reduction from 2008 levels by 2050.
In 2010, a Community GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory was conducted that showed a 21 percent reduction from 2008 levels by 2014, using traditionally accepted GHG emissions accounting methods. The Energy Focus Areas Study was completed in 2017 and evaluated natural gas and electric distribution infrastructure in four selected “Energy Focus Areas” in the greater Ithaca area. The Green Energy Incentives project was completed in 2016 and evaluated incentives for green building design and construction, specifically to promote low-energy and low-carbon buildings. This project is intended to develop criteria and justification for such incentives. Additionally; the County prepared an Energy Roadmap in 2016 that outlined scenarios to achieve our GHG emissions goals by 2050 by implementing actions in four critical “buckets”:
- Improving energy efficiency in buildings, lighting, and appliances.
- Moving from grid-supplied electricity generated outside of Tompkins County to local renewable generation.
- Moving from natural gas to heat pumps and biomass heating.
- Moving from gasoline-powered to electric cars and light trucks and reducing the number of miles driven.
In 2019, the Energy Strategy was updated to provide vision and leadership to move both County government operations and the overall community toward achieving net-zero emissions. The County can provide leadership internally through decisions it makes in allocating funding to achieve GHG emissions goals. The County can also provide leadership to the broader community by tracking data, identifying issues, applying for funding, and convening stakeholders to support the community achieving its GHG emissions goals.
Internal Focus: Tompkins County will lead by example in its own operations
- The County will undertake an inventory and analysis of its facilities and fleet to determine a financially sound path to net-zero emissions. A high-level analysis is occurring now as part of the County’s capital planning and those numbers will inform whether the County can responsibly commit to net-zero or other more aggressive GHG emissions goal by 2030, 2040 or 2050. The County will strive for the largest reduction in the shortest timeframe possible while remaining financially solvent.
- The County will work with its employees to reduce GHG emissions from employee commutes. This will include opportunities to participate in a transportation demand management program such as the one offered by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, as well as other programs and incentives to encourage carpooling, taking transit, and commuting via electric vehicles.
- The County will periodically update its Government Operations GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory to inform progress and assist in decision-making.
External Focus: Tompkins County will lead by supporting and facilitating community work to reduce fossil fuel dependency and reduce GHG emissions
The County will periodically update the Community GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory to inform progress and assist in decision-making.
The County will support targeted programs, such as continuing and strengthening the Business Energy Advisors Program, which helps businesses and non-profits reduce GHG emissions from their buildings.
The County will periodically host an “Energy Summit” to convene the community and align efforts. The Summit will include a focus on the four buckets of critical actions identified in the Energy Roadmap and summarized in this introduction.
The County will periodically prepare a “State of Energy” report that summarizes community energy activities and identifies opportunities, challenges and gaps to be filled, and whether information is being communicated effectively in the community.
The County will periodically host stakeholder group meetings around specific topics to discuss opportunities, challenges and gaps.*
The County will prepare reports and pursue funding to address the opportunities, challenges and gaps identified, including developing pilot programs and conducting feasibility studies that would result in reduced emissions.*
In 2019, the Tompkins County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory was updated. The purpose of the inventories is to measure progress towards meeting the County's goal of net-zero emissions and compare with results from previous GHG inventories.
The Community Inventory accounts for all GHG emissions generated by activities within the County, including governments, education facilities, residents, nonprofit 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.
The Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability has completed two greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use inventories for the year 2019. The purpose of the inventories is to measure progress towards meeting the County's goal of net-zero emissions and compare with results from previous GHG inventories (see Updated 2008 Community Inventory below).
2019 Community GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory
*Methodology Report for preparation of the 2019 Community Inventory is available upon request.
2019 County Government Operations GHG Emissions and Energy Use Inventory
*Methodology Report for preparation of the 2019 Government Operations Inventory is available upon request.
Tompkins County Energy Strategy
Tompkins County Energy Strategy outlines how the County will lead by example in its own operations and how the County will lead by supporting and facilitating community work to reduce fossil fuel dependency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The County's past actions and efforts have been compiled in this 10-page Energy and Sustainability Efforts document.
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
The Tompkins 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.
Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Sustainability Plan (2013)
The NYSERDA-funded Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Plan was developed with input from community residents, businesses, and public and private experts across a wide range of fields to develop a regional sustainability plan and a set of 'Top 22' priority projects that will improve the economic and environmental health of the area. The plan provides a map to a sustainable future for the Southern Tier and will be used to help guide regional decision-making and state and local investments in integrated, sustainable solutions.