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Peaker Power Plants: Inefficiency, Injustice, and Insights into an Electrified Future Discussed at Sustainable Westchester Webinar

By | Our Blog

Peaker Power Plants: Inefficiency, Injustice, and Insights into an Electrified Future Discussed at Sustainable Westchester Webinar

Authored By: Lauren Kroell

 

On Thursday, November 10th, Sustainable Westchester hosted a webinar looking at the environmental and social justice impacts of peaker power plants, with guest speakers from the Clean Energy Group (CEG), UPROSE, The Point CDC, and GridRewards by Logical Buildings. Councilwoman Yadira Ramos-Herbert offered opening remarks (District 3, New Rochelle), setting the stage for an insightful discussion on how more mindful energy usage can advance environmental justice.

Peaker power plants – known informally as “peakers” – operate during periods of high energy demand to generate enough electricity to supply the energy grid. Often several decades old and infrequently used, these fossil-fuel powered plants are being seen as an increasingly expensive and inefficient source of energy. Shelley Robbins of the Clean Energy Group (CEG) explained that this is the case in terms of not only the excessive emissions produced, the cost of operation, but also their infrequent time of use – with the average US plant being on less than 5% of the time in a given year.

Speakers also discussed how the close proximity of these peakers to low income populations and communities of color has been a major environmental justice concern – particularly in New York City, which has one of the highest concentrations of peakers nationwide. Victor Davila from The Point CDC noted that exposure to pollutants like nitrous oxide (NOX) – which contributes to the build up of particulate matter (PM2.5) – can weaken cognitive development and increase the rate of cardiovascular disease, both of which are seen in peaker-populated communities. Victor noted that young people in particular “are being given an immediate handicap by being forced to grow up in these conditions.” To capture this, Shelley Robbins took us through the CEG’s Peaker Power Plant Mapping Tool – which offers emissions, operating, and demographic data on peaker plants nationwide. Such a tool offers accessible, empirical evidence of the disproportionate impacts of peaker power plants on marginalized communities.

In breaking down how to address peaker plants, speakers highlighted how past successful movements can offer insightful solutions. Lovinia Reynolds from UPROSE took us through a case study in Sunset Park, where the organization successfully halted repowering plans for one of these peakers – instead replacing it with a battery storage system. Lovinia discussed several other projects currently underway to advance climate resiliency in Sunset Park – including community solar, offshore wind projects, and more.

During the webinar, Westchester residents also learned about how to take action by becoming more mindful energy users. As Lauren Brois, Director of EnergySmart Homes, pointed out, our electricity usage during high-demand times directly contributes to the environmental and social justice impacts associated with peakers. These impacts can be minimized by using GridRewards, an app that offers personalized energy insights to help reduce utility costs and energy waste. Sylvie Binder, Smart Buildings Account Executive at Logical Buildings, explained that reducing our electricity consumption during peak times is the lowest-cost way to manage energy demand – and offers a benefit to participants, as they can be paid for their energy savings.

The webinar saw active engagement from participants and presenters alike about how these discussions connect to current political and economic trends. Funds distributed as part of the newly-passed New York Environmental Bond Act and the mobilization of the Inflation Reduction Act will create clear incentives for the market to invest in renewable energy, thereby reducing our dependence on aging fossil fuel infrastructure like peaker plants. As a result of all the innovation we’re seeing in the world of clean energy and electrification, speakers pointed out that these are actions we can take right now – and indeed being deployed as we speak. Lovinia Reynolds noted that “nothing we do is aspirational, everything is operational…All of this is happening now. If it moves slowly, it’s because it’s never been done before.”

Watch the full webinar at the link here: https://bit.ly/SWPeakerPlantWebinar

Sustainable Westchester is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Mount Kisco. To learn more about GridRewards visit SustainableWestchester.org or call 914-242-4725.

VICTORY: Sustainable Westchester Celebrates the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act’s Passing

By | Our Blog

VICTORY: Sustainable Westchester Celebrates the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act’s Passing

Authored By: Lauren Kroell

 

After several weeks of organizing, distributing materials, and coordinating outreach efforts, Sustainable Westchester joins fellow environmental groups in celebrating the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act!

This historic measure enables the allocation of $4.2 billion in funding towards environmental measures seeking to improve public health, resource conservation and protection, and overall quality of life across New York State. In light of the large proportion of votes favoring the Bond Act’s passing, New Yorkers have made it clear that infrastructure upgrades, green job creation, the expansion of public green space, building retrofits, and other environmental actions are widely popular – and indeed necessary to meet statewide climate targets.

An undoubtedly crucial factor behind the Bond Act’s passing was the collaborative efforts among environmental groups to raise awareness about the measure, particularly the importance of flipping over your ballot to see the actual proposition. The Vote Yes for Clean Water and Jobs Bond Act Coalition brought together over 200 organizations – Sustainable Westchester included – to work on joint campaign efforts, which included material distribution, social media outreach, and regional press conferences (including one in Peekskill, with Sustainable Westchester in attendance).

We also cannot forget the support of many Westchester municipalities who passed resolutions in support of the Bond Act, including:

  • Village of Hastings-on-Hudson: passed by the Mayor and Board of Trustees on 10/11/22. (Source)
  • Town of Ossining: passed by the Town Board on 9/13/22. (Source)
  • Town of Bedford: passed by Town Board on 8/16/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Croton-on-Hudson: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of Mamaroneck: passed by the Town Board on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of Greenburgh: passed by the Town Board on 10/12/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Larchmont: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of North Salem: passed by the Town Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Town of New Castle: passed by the Town Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Ossining: passed by the Board of Trustees on 9/21/2022. (Source)
  • City of New Rochelle: passed by the City Council on 10/12/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Pelham: passed by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Board of Trustees on 10/11/2022. (Source)
  • Scarsdale Towns: passed by the Village Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Mamaroneck: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/11/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Ardsley: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Rye Brook: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/25/2022
  • Rye Town: passed by Town Council on 10/20/202 (Source)
  • Town of Pound Ridge: passed by the Town Board on 10/11/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Dobbs Ferry: passed on 11/7/2022 (newly added from our previous list!)
  • Town of Lewisboro: passed on 11/7/2022 (newly added from our previous list!)

We commend our fellow coalition members, community groups, and Westchester municipalities alike for all the time, energy, and resources put into making the Bond Act a reality. This level of community collaboration helped elevate Westchester to be one of the counties most supportive of the Bond Act’s passing, an outcome that would not have been possible without all of the efforts invested.

Now, we join the Bond Act coalition in turning the attention towards its implementation so that all New Yorkers can realize the benefits of a cleaner, greener future for our state.

Spotlighting Our Speakers: Exploring Peaker Power Plants – Inequities and Solutions

By | Our Blog

Spotlighting Our Speakers: Exploring Peaker Power Plants – Inequities and Solutions

Authored By: Lauren Kroell

 

Ever wondered just how big of an impact your energy consumption patterns can have? Many of us may be familiar with the reminder to turn off the light when you leave a room, or turning down the air conditioning overnight so that your electricity bills aren’t as high as they would otherwise be. However, some of us may not be as aware of the environmental justice impacts of doing so, and how timing can play a crucial role.

That’s why on Thursday, November 10th, 2022 from 7-8PM, Sustainable Westchester will host a webinar on the role that peaker power plants (sometimes known as “peakers”) play in supplying our energy demand, and the severe environmental and social justice impacts that accompany them. Today, we wanted to highlight the incredible speakers who will be talking about their respective group’s efforts to raise awareness and tackle these important issues. Learn more about them below:

Shelley Robbins: Shelley Hudson Robbins is a Project Director at Clean Energy Group. Her work focuses on the Phase Out Peakers Project and the Resilient Power Project. Shelley joined Clean Energy Group after working for Upstate Forever in South Carolina for more than 13 years. At UF, she created the organization’s energy program, fought natural gas pipeline expansion, supported clean energy in both the statehouse and at the Public Service Commission, and worked on energy burden and just transition issues. Shelley has also worked for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Florida Governor’s Office (defending the state from offshore drilling), and the Florida Public Service Commission. She has an economics degree from Duke University and an MBA from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Victor Davila: Victor Davila has been a Bronx based community organizer for over 16 years and attended the University of Vermont. They are the co-founder of the environmental education skate group Eco Ryders, Community organizer and ACTION program manager at The Point CDC, and a member of the New York Renews organizing committee.

David Klatt: As the COO of Logical Buildings, David is responsible for analyzing and optimizing building energy performance through the implementation of software and cleantech capital projects across thousands of buildings. He sits on the CREtech Climate Leadership Board, is cleantech 40 under 40 and is a member of the cleantech leaders roundtable. David is passionate about making energy efficiency fun, easy and accessible and using data analytics and technology to effectuate positive environmental change in buildings.

Prior to co-founding Logical Buildings, David was an associate at Castleton Commodities International where he focused on derivatives trading and asset acquisition opportunities across the energy landscape. Before joining Castleton, David began his career as an analyst in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Power and Energy Investment Banking group working primarily on power generation, electric and gas utilities, and renewable energy M&A.

David graduated summa cum laude from University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics.

If you’re interested in participating and learning more, we invite you to visit the Facebook Event page and register for the event at https://bit.ly/PeakerPlantWebinar.

We hope to see you there!

It’s Not Just in the Lights: How More Mindful Energy Usage Can Advance Environmental Justice

By | Our Blog

It’s Not Just in the Lights: How More Mindful Energy Usage Can Advance Environmental Justice

Authored By: Lauren Kroell

 

For many looking to support sustainability efforts, one of the first steps is to practice more eco-conscious habits at home. Many of us have heard the tried-and-true advice of turning off the lights once you leave the room as a way to conserve energy – but some may not be as aware of the environmental justice impacts of doing so, and how conserving energy at key times can play a crucial role.

So where do we begin when it comes to unpacking electricity usage during times of high demand? Look no further than peaker power plants. Sometimes referred to as “peakers,” these power plants use fossil fuels (generally fracked gas and fuel oil) to generate and deliver electricity to the grid when extra supply is needed to meet increased electricity demand. But here’s the catch – peaker plants are only turned on during these high demand periods, and when they are, it’s generally only for a few hours (or less) at a time. Despite these low run times, it is estimated that $4.5 billion in ratepayer funds have gone towards propping up peaker plants in New York City (Clean Energy Group). This makes peaker plants both energy and cost inefficient.

The environmental justice impacts are made clear when recognizing how the vast majority of peakers are located in low-income neighborhoods and/or communities of color. This means that when we use energy during high-demand periods, the peakers that supply our energy demand contribute to the higher rates of emissions in marginalized communities – including dangerous greenhouse gases and air pollutants like carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOX), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) (Clean Energy Group, Peaker Mapping Tool). As such, it is crucial that we become more aware of how to better manage our energy usage so these impacts aren’t as severe.

That’s why on Thursday, November 10th, 2022 from 7-8PM, Sustainable Westchester will host a webinar on how peaker power plants impact local communities. We will be hearing from several groups working to raise awareness about these important issues, who will provide elaboration on the points above and show us how to make a difference at home. If you’re interested in participating and learning more, we invite you to visit the Facebook Event page and register for the event at https://bit.ly/PeakerPlantWebinar.

We hope to see you there so that you can learn how to be a more mindful energy consumer – because problems like these can be alleviated by the flip of a switch.

Sustainable Westchester Commends Member Municipalities for their Support of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act

By | Our Blog

Sustainable Westchester Commends Member Municipalities for their Support of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act

Authored By: Lauren Kroell

 

On November 8th, New Yorkers will cast their votes in the 2022 midterm elections. Although this election – just like any other – is crucially important in exercising your right to choose who will represent you, your ballot will also include a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve quality of life for all New Yorkers.

The Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act (“the Bond Act”) is a crucial piece of legislation that will set aside $4.2 billion for upgrading aging and unsafe infrastructure, retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient, expanding green space, and advancing environmental justice efforts. The Bond Act is expected to support the creation of over 84,000 jobs statewide and improve public health by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. Its passage would reinforce New York State’s standing as a national leader in climate action and secure widespread, community-level benefits for present and future generations to come.

In response to the Bond Act’s feature on the November 8th ballot, many resolutions have been passed in support of its enactment – including by the Westchester County Board of Legislators affirming their support for the Bond Act on October 3rd, 2022. Sustainable Westchester applauds the BOL’s efforts to put the public first and amplify the Bond Act’s importance to society.

Westchester County also offered an informational campaign reminding residents to “Flip it Over” and vote on Proposition One: The Environmental Bond Act. Latimer said: “While we are not advocating for how you vote, it is vital that you make your voice heard and do vote. It is easy to miss this referendum on the reverse side of your ballot, so when voting this year remember to ‘Flip it Over.’”

County Director of Energy & Sustainability Peter McCartt said: “Our planet is facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before and the results of this vote will have a large impact on how our State responds. Flip it over. Vote. Make your voice heard.”

Sustainable Westchester would like to highlight the following Westchester municipalities for passing resolutions in support of the Bond Act:

  • Village of Hastings-on-Hudson: passed by the Mayor and Board of Trustees on 10/11/22. (Source)
  • Town of Ossining: passed by the Town Board on 9/13/22. (Source)
  • Town of Bedford: passed by Town Board on 8/16/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Croton-on-Hudson: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of Mamaroneck: passed by the Town Board on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of Greenburgh: passed by the Town Board on 10/12/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Larchmont: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022. (Source)
  • Town of North Salem: passed by the Town Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Town of New Castle: passed by the Town Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Ossining: passed by the Board of Trustees on 9/21/2022. (Source)
  • City of New Rochelle: passed by the City Council on 10/12/2022. (Source)
  • Village of Pelham: passed by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Board of Trustees on 10/11/2022. (Source)
  • Scarsdale Towns: passed by the Village Board on 10/25/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Mamaroneck: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/11/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Ardsley: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/3/2022 (Source)
  • Village of Rye Brook: passed by the Board of Trustees on 10/25/2022
  • Rye Town: passed by Town Council on 10/20/202 (Source)
  • Town of Pound Ridge: passed by the Town Board on 10/11/2022 (Source)

*As of November 2, 2022 please note that this may not be a complete list. If your municipality should be added, please email info@sustainablewestchester.org

These resolutions cited common needs to enhance natural resource protection, modernize transportation and water-related infrastructure, ensure safeguards against extreme weather events, and accelerate pollution reduction – all of which can be realized through the Bond Act’s passage.

Sustainable Westchester joins these municipalities in calling on all voters to flip the ballot on November 8th and vote YES for the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Bond Act.

If you want to take action, here are some ways to show your support:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right

By | Our Blog

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right

New technology brings an update to a beloved phrase.

Authored By: Curtis Dorval and Brooklyn Flick

If you grew up during the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s you probably remember seeing or hearing public service announcements for recycling: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” three chasing arrows in a triangle, and a feel good message of communities saving the planet. The “three R’s” are probably one of the most effective messaging campaigns ever created. Not only is it easy to remember, but those three simple words convey the entire meaning behind the message.

As we celebrate the phrase’s 50th anniversary, it’s important for us to reflect on both its influence throughout history and its impact within our lives today. Specifically we need to understand how it affects our finances, the environment, and environmental justice issues. But to begin this process, we must start by learning about the unspoken “R” in the concept, otherwise known as Recycling “Right”.

Importance of Recycling Right

There are both ethical and financial incentives to recycling; but recycling is only worth doing if it is done correctly. Our planet does not hold infinite resources, and the failure to protect and reuse what we have is greatly impacting our survival. While it may seem as though we will never see the effects of resource scarcity, we have already felt them in our lifetime with water. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think of how recycling right, or the lack of it, affects other resources as well.

Environment & Conservation of Resources

Conserving resources is a major component to preserving the environment. Extracting new and raw metals or materials to produce goods comes with a number of consequences including: species and habitat loss, degraded water quality, and air and soil pollution. But when we begin Reducing and reusing waste, we curtail the amount of greenhouse gasses (ghg) that are released into the air during raw material extraction and landfill decomposition. With fewer ghg and hazardous emissions, there is less pollution to ravage the planet and to ravage our health. If you want to see the impact of your contributions, the EPA has a nifty tool called the “Individual Waste Reduction Model” or iWARM, which shows just how efficiently someone can live by recycling various materials.

Financial

When we create less waste and recycle properly, we spend less money and can use the savings to invest towards incentives for the community. In fact, many people do not know that municipalities have to pay a fee to send trash to the landfill and if the quantity of trash is reduced, then the associated costs of disposal also decrease. The result is efficient tax dollar usage, leading to improved technologies and business incentives (when the government invests in updated infrastructure, businesses are more productive). The job market also benefits immensely from proper recycling. According to the EPA, in the United States alone, there are currently 681,000 jobs, 37.8 billion in wages, and 5.5 billion in tax revenues to be had from recycling. These numbers parallel many oil and gas companies in size.

Climate Justice

Most landfills, incinerators, and waste management plants are located in communities with the majority of its tenants being low income and/or People Of Color. As history has shown, this is unethical, and the voices of the people who are most affected are often underrepresented or ignored despite having the same basic constitutional rights as any other American.

The importance of recognizing the effect of proximity to waste is crucial, especially when exposure to waste disposal sites has been the subject of numerous health-related studies. While conclusions vary, most research indicates that there are direct risks associated with living near disposal sites, including an increased risk for birth defects, cancer, and asthma.

We also know that the financial aspect is clear; waste disposal sites drive down home values. But why should we care about where people choose to live? The reality is that sometimes there is no choice.

For decades, federal and state institutions engaged in redlining. In short, banks and realtors refused to provide lending to People of Color and access to certain communities. This restricted People of Color to live in neighborhoods with low home values. Redlining stifled wealth building for these homeowners. While the full solution is much more complex (one instance can be found here), one solution is improving communities and home values.

By improving recycling technology alongside implementing greenspaces and community run programs, the desirability of these neighborhoods will improve. This can happen faster if we reallocate financial resources to invest in improved waste disposal technology, brought about by reducing waste expenses.

In addition, the UN has devised a set of 17 SDG’s or Sustainable Development Goals that recognize the intersectionality of equitable treatment of environmental issues. The utilization of these goals in the response to excess waste can be helpful as a basis for thinking of potential solutions in the future.

program zero waste

Action Steps

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has introduced the ‘Recycle Right NY Program’ to inspire both children and adults to recycle through entertaining, useful initiatives which spread information and incentivize recycling with proper waste management. The largest tool being offered is a state funded organization with the same name. One major goal of the program is to end a phenomenon known as “wish-cycling”: when someone unknowingly tosses non recyclable waste into the recycling bin with the hopes that it will be properly handled.

What is most helpful about the Recycle Right program and its technologies is the actionable “how-to” aspect missing from most environmental agencies. Since this project’s inception, Sustainable Westchester has dedicated significant resources to the program. The modification of their website and smartphone application seek to provide the municipalities of upstate New York with tips and tools for recycling in their local area. While someone may be informed of the importance of recycling, the instructions for knowing how to recycle properly within their local municipality may not exist. This is what the Recycle Right program was created to offer.

Westchester County Implications

Found within Sustainable Westchester’s website and phone app is a personalized community guide with technologies such as the Recyclopedia, which explains what items can and can’t be recycled, as well as how to properly dispose of said item. With this knowledge, someone can then utilize the calendar feature describing how, when, and where to dispose of these items. The custom tailoring of information is extremely thorough within each municipality and covers information all the way from the state, down to the individual street one lives on. The best part of this modern take on waste management is the subsequent app that makes all this information accessible through our phones. Embedded in the app is a reminder tool to send push notifications on waste collection days so someone does not forget to take care of their waste even during holiday schedules.

What is most helpful about the Recycle Right app and website is its unbiased nature. Each person who uses the app can rest assured that the information being given offers the most environmentally conscious option available, even if it is the occasional recommendation to discard an item rather than contaminating the entire recycling bin. Integrating the user-friendly smartphone app and matching website, recycling can be added to a daily routine with ease.

It can also be interesting to see what companies around us are conscious of their waste footprint and implement aluminum cashback programs or used product collections like clothing, furniture, etc. The Recycle Right app has also implemented alternatives to simply disposing of an item: such as selling it, repurposing it, or shipping it to individual collection sites where they can possibly receive unique rewards.

In reality, almost all of our waste is recyclable or compostable; there is only a fraction of a percentage that is not. The end goal is zero waste, where all resources are utilized to their most efficient ends. This is not some pipe dream. Within the US, there are states like Maine producing initiatives that increase recycling and its efficiency that we can draw inspiration from. It is possible and Americans have been improving our recycling for decades. All we need to do is “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Right.”

Stovetop Cook Off: How Induction Stoves are healthier, faster and more energy efficient!

By | Our Blog

Stovetop Cook Off: How Induction Stoves are healthier,
faster and more energy efficient!

By Amy Liang, EnergySmart Homes

Home is where the heart is. Cooking at home brings delicious meals, but it can also bring a host of air contaminants and unsafe cooking conditions. Conventional gas stoves lead to unhealthy indoor air quality in your home. They emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals, which is exacerbated when gas stoves are not paired with an exhaust ventilation hood.

A study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University found that gas burners contribute 25-39% higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and 21-30% higher concentrations of carbon monoxide. When high levels of these toxins are introduced into our living environment, they can pose a significant threat to the health of our loved ones. They can worsen or trigger respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially for those with asthma, emphysema, or other preexisting health conditions.

You may ask then, what are alternative options to gas stoves? There are three main types of stoves: gas, electric, and induction. The chart below compares these three technologies, in terms of health, energy efficiency, cooking capacity, and environmental impacts.

Induction stoves prove to be the best alternative to conventional gas and electric stoves. These stoves are healthier, faster, safer, and the most energy efficient and environmentally-friendly out of all the options. To power the range, the induction stove works by sending electromagnetic currents directly into your pots and pans – therefore, heating your food directly rather than just the cooktop surface. In addition to these benefits, there are no open flames to worry about, so there’s less fretting over accidental fires, messes, or safety risks for your children.

There are a few things to keep in mind when making your next purchase. Induction stoves are generally more expensive and less available than electric or gas stoves. However, in recent years, prices have dropped significantly due to their growing popularity – making them a more attainable investment for the future of your health and the environment. Additionally, induction stoves are limited to certain cookware. They can’t be paired with copper, aluminum, and ceramic wares, but they work with anything that is magnetic. This includes most stainless steel, cast-iron, non-stick and other common cookware.

Electric stoves are also a good option compared to conventional gas stoves. Similar to induction stoves, they don’t release harmful particles into your home and environment. However, they can also be the least energy efficient option and be the slowest to heat up.

Whether you’re looking to replace your old gas stove due to usability or environmental reasons, now is the time to switch! Using a conventional gas stove to cook your meals 3x a day contributes to high levels of toxins from the burning of fossil fuels. To avoid this, switch over to stoves where you can eliminate harmful emissions. You can also reduce your carbon footprint even further by pairing these electric systems with a renewable energy source like solar, making your kitchen more efficient and your home EnergySmart!

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Check out:

October: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month & Energy Awareness Month: Family, Community & Environmental Action

By | Our Blog

October: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month & Energy
Awareness Month:

Family, Community & Environmental Action

To read in Spanish click here

Paul Presendieu, Manager, Outreach
Valentina Gonzales, Associate-Marketing, Communications & Outreach
Sustainable Westchester, Inc.

Every year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage month from September 15 to October 15, a celebration of culture, traditions and contributions. Here in Westchester, we celebrate the rich history and culture of the Latino community and residents and all that they bring to the fabric of the County.

As the end of Hispanic Heritage month coincides with the start of October Energy Awareness Month- we are taking the opportunity to discuss the importance of sustainable energy for the well-being of our families, our environment, and future generations.

Latino Americans embody the best of American core values – family, community, faith, a love for the earth and environment. We are aware, however, that many in the Latino community may live in areas of the County that bear a greater than average burden in terms of the harmful effects of current environmental policies and a greater percentage share of energy costs.

As we look to protect and nurture our families and continue to teach our children, we need to discuss and explore ways to protect our environment and ensure that all community members are able to access the benefits of a just, sustainable and clean energy future.
We must use our natural resources efficiently and wisely, and continue to embrace clean energy solutions as the path forward.

Sustainable Westchester, a nonprofit consortium of forty-four Westchester County municipalities and the County itself, brings a variety of clean energy programs to benefit everyone in the community.

These initiatives help to create healthy, resilient and sustainable communities by offering socially responsible, environmentally sound, and viable energy solutions for everyone. We work each day to enhance our programs to better serve the needs of our Latino neighbors, bringing solutions that provide vetted, safe access to renewable energy as well as opportunities to save money on electricity bills.

Simple Energy Actions Make a Big Impact

Many of these simple energy actions can be taken from the comfort of your own home.

Westchester Power offers access to affordable clean, renewable power through a program vetted by your municipality. The fixed-rates and a level of cost control, providing insurance against potential rate fluctuations. The program provides a vetted and easy way for municipal residents and small businesses to participate in renewable energy supply options without having to navigate the confusing world of Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

Participants also have access to many education materials through Sustainable Westchester, including “How to read your bill” & more. Visit http://sustainablewestchester.org/wp/ to see if your municipality is a participant in the program, learn how to opt-in and take a look at some of the energy education materials.

Community Solar allows NYSEG and Con Ed utility customers – homeowners, renters, nonprofits, houses of worship, and many businesses – to support local, clean energy produced by a community solar farm, while benefiting from savings on their electricity bills. With no cost to join or cancel, Sustainable Westchester’s Community Solar makes going green easy and accessible. Participants subscribe to a nearby solar farm, the generated solar credits are reflected on their monthly utility bill and these provide savings of up 10%. The program supports access to the benefits of solar technology among residents of all socioeconomic levels and encourages regional development furthering build solar power capacity. Take action and support Community Solar by visiting http://sustainablewestchester.org/solar/.

GridRewards is an app created to improve grid efficiency and track energy usage in close to realtime, thus allowing you to better control your energy use. This app utilizes Con Edison’s installation of smart meters throughout Westchester County, providing account holders with an opportunity to participate in programming to have more oversight over their energy usage within monthly cycles. Ultimately, account owners become aware of what is occurring on their regional grid, learn how to save energy and money, as well as earn cash rewards by reducing electricity usage when the electric grid is most stressed.

GridRewards supports collective action for a clean energy future by encouraging participation in demand response events, reducing energy use when the grid is on peak load. This effort helps to reduce reliance on peaker power plants that are fired up during times when energy grids are in high or peak demand. These peaker plants use the dirtiest fossil-fuel sources, are generally located in lowincome communities of color, and have devastating impacts on the public health of residents who live within proximity of the plants. Residents can sign-up for GridRewards now and be enrolled in the Summer 2022 demand response events; visit http://sustainablewestchester.org/gridrewards/ to learn more.

EnergySmart HOMES can help you put a stop to energy waste, eliminate fossil fuel usage, increase the value of your home and harness additional savings with energy efficiency and clean heating and cooling upgrades. You will be connected with local energy experts in the field of heating and cooling efficiency who offer the latest clean energy technologies. Experts will first begin with a home energy assessment to diagnose your home, and then get started on retrofitting solutions that will pay off with savings and comfort. Take advantage of significant programs and incentives for air source and geothermal heat pumps! Call a contractor to schedule your assessment or reach out to Sustainable Westchester for assistance. Visit http://sustainablewestchester.org/energysmarthomes/ or call (914) 242-4724 x2 for assistance in Spanish.

Our Community Coming Together: An Equitable
and Sustainable Future

As part of Hispanic Heritage Month and Energy Awareness Month, we have been celebrating Latinx leaders, both in business and the environment, who serve as role models for future generations. Please look for our social media postings on Facebook and Instagram this month. We are pleased to be able to celebrate the work that the Hispanic community is doing; it is an inspiring example for all to follow.

We encourage you all to get involved, too. There is always the opportunity for change in environmental equity that provides a higher and healthier standard of living for all. This could take the form of sharing family stories together, starting a community garden or organizing a family litter-pickup hike, watching a documentary or sharing a book. There are also simple and effective actions that increase energy awareness and have cost-saving benefits such as turning off lights, turning the refrigerator or air conditioning down, unplugging devices, chargers or small appliances when not in use, replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, reducing water consumption or using Mother Nature by opening and closing blinds to warm and cool your home or dry clothes.

We also encourage everyone to reach out to us at Sustainable Westchester to learn more about the issues and solutions, to see how you and your family can get involved or have your energy questions answered. Although we are living through uncertain times, we can take small steps toward protecting the health, safety, and resiliency of our community and the planet. Every action adds impact. The collective action of our families, our friends and our communities can be powerful agents of change not only for the present, but also to allow future generations to meet their own energy needs.

Westchester Neighbors Get EnergySmart by Electrifying with heat pumps!

By | Our Blog

Westchester Neighbors Get EnergySmart by Electrifying with heat pumps!

Lily Carey, EnergySmart HOMES Associate

Though Westchester has long been a very environmentally-minded community, many homeowners are still unsure of how to make their home more eco-friendly. Fortunately, clean heating and cooling options are becoming more widespread and affordable. Thanks to new incentives from power companies and the government, homeowners can upgrade their homes to air-source or geothermal heating systems at a discounted price, all while reducing their carbon footprint.

Hundreds of homes across Westchester have chosen to go green over the past several years, and there has never been a better time to do so. Pelham residents Mike Beilstein and Amy Kwan feel lucky to have upgraded the heating and cooling systems in their historic home just before the pandemic hit.

“We’ve worked from home for the last 15 months, and we upgraded to our system at a really lucky time, because I don’t know if I would’ve been able to survive without it,” says Mike.

When they first moved in, Mike and Amy’s home used an oil heating system and had no insulation. When they heard about ConEd’s new incentives for geothermal energy, Mike and Amy scheduled a home energy assessment, in which local contractors would come to run tests on their home to see how they could benefit from energy upgrades.

The family was surprised to discover that ConEd’s incentives could help them pay for a new geothermal heating and cooling system, entirely powered by clean energy. Over the next few months, local contractors helped Mike and Amy replace their wasteful oil heating unit with a new geothermal system, which uses underground piping to heat and cool the house.

The results? Mike and Amy’s home is not only more comfortable than ever, but their heating bills have gone down significantly. “If we had to do it all over again, we would definitely make the same decision,” says Amy.

For those seeking a different option, air-source heat pumps are another clean option to heat and cool the home. Tom Constabile of New Rochelle recently replaced his home heating system with several ductless air-source heat pumps that attach onto the side of the house and provide climate control for individual rooms. These air-source heat pumps can be a great option for homes without existing ductwork.

“With mini splits, you’re controlling the climate in each room… it allows you to both get comfort, but also be thoughtful about your expenses and the environment,” says Tom
Padma Sridhar, a Briarcliff resident who also recently installed an air-source heat pump, has noticed how convenient it is to control the heat pump with a remote.

“The remote has a mode button which allows you to switch from heating to cooling…it’s very simple, and the best part is that it’s environmentally friendly.”

These are just a few families out of hundreds in Westchester who have installed new heating and cooling systems in their homes or have upgraded their insulation. These eco-friendly systems use far less energy to heat and cool the home. Homeowners can save thousands on their heating bills – not to mention that these clean energy options can reduce your home’s carbon emissions.

Going green is easier and more affordable than ever, and every home can make a difference. Switching over to air-source or geothermal heating systems is not only more efficient and cost-effective in the long term, but also contributes greatly in reducing destructive greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, carbon emission rates have skyrocketed to almost 410 parts per million in the last 2 years; a rate that is 100 times faster than any natural increases we’ve seen in the past. But by having our communities join together, we are taking great steps in reducing our carbon emissions and creating a better world for generations to come. Interested parties can contact Sustainable Westchester (email/phone) to get started.

The Power of the Sun for Everyone through Community Solar!

By | Our Blog

The Power of the Sun for Everyone
through Community Solar!

Leo Wiegman, Director of Solar Programs,
Sustainable Westchester

What if everyone could have access
to renewable solar energy without installing solar?

Powering our lives through renewable solar energy has become more accessible and affordable than ever before.

In fact, the number of solar installations on homes and businesses is growing rapidly, and by the end of 2021, more than 8,300 homes and businesses in Westchester County will have installed solar systems, chiefly on roofs.
Just over 330,000 households call Westchester County home. Even if rooftop solar on homes in Westchester increased tenfold to 83,000 solar systems, that still leaves over three quarters of our households without direct access to the benefits of solar energy.

Between 2014 and 2018, twenty-two municipalities hosted Sustainable Westchester’s Solarize Westchester campaigns. Over 600 homeowners were able to install solar systems through this Solarize effort, which has been a great success.

However, during these Solarize campaigns, we found that almost 8 out of every 10 homeowners who inquired about solar on their homes were not able to proceed.

A household may not be able to install its own solar panels for many good reasons: The home may have too much shade from trees; The roof’s orientation may not be sufficiently south-facing; The roof size may not be adequately rectangular or large enough; The household may be a condo, co-op or rental unit without access to the roof; Or the household may not wish to borrow needed funds.
But did you know that these same homeowners can still reap the benefits of energy-efficient solar power? That’s where Community Solar comes in!

What is Community Solar?

In a nutshell, Community Solar is a statewide program that allows households to subscribe to their allocated share of a larger solar project (a.k.a. “solar farm”) located elsewhere within their utility’s service territory. Each subscriber earns solar credits each month that saves them money and supports renewable energy efforts.

The solar farm could be on the roof of a large warehouse or office building. It could be on canopies in a large parking lot of a nonprofit. It could be mounted on the ground at an old landfill. In fact, in Westchester County today, we already have these three examples of community solar projects from Yonkers to Ossining and Mount Kisco.

In each case, the site owner-such as a commercial property owner, nonprofit organization, or local government-enters into a lease agreement for that space with a solar project developer. The developer agrees to pay the site owner a lease amount to develop, install and maintain the solar farm at the developer’s expense. After the solar farm gets permission to operate from the local utility, the energy production is divided up among all the participating households or small businesses.

Who benefits?

First, the utility benefits from avoiding the production of that energy itself and the site owner is now earning a lease payment for a roof or other area that was not earning revenue before. Second, the solar developer is getting subscribers who want to benefit from solar and the subscriber benefits from a monthly savings on each bill from the solar credits that their share of the farm has earned. In the end, all parties receive some form of benefit from the development of Community Solar.

Access and equity for all!

Community Solar opens up access to the benefits of solar energy to every household that pays an electric bill. Customers who enroll in Community Solar will see monthly savings for twenty years or longer. With no cost to join or cancel and no solar installation on the subscriber’s property, Community Solar removes the barriers for households who rent or live in multi-family buildings.

How do solar credits work?

New York has put in place strong new policies to decarbonize the energy sector. In fact, New York has mandated that each bill for customers participating in a Community Solar project must produce a savings of at least five percent for the net credits (a.k.a. “solar credits). Some Community Solar projects have been able to offer up to ten percent savings for the solar credits.

Let’s follow the dollars! On a typical monthly electric bill, you get a bill from the utility and pay it. You may be using an energy supply company for the supply of electricity. If so, that supply amount is shown on the bill and added onto the utility’s delivery charges for a total amount.

When you subscribe to Community Solar, the solar farm reports to the utility how many kilowatt-hours of electricity your share produced that month. The utility multiplies that energy amount by each month’s energy rate, which yields a dollar value for those solar kilowatt-hours (that it received from the solar farm grid injection).

Bottom line, your subscription produces a savings on your monthly energy bills for twenty years or longer. And, your subscription to a Community Solar project can be cancelled at any time, without a fee, and costs nothing to join.

New York has also mandated that every utility must do the billing for community solar projects just as they have been doing for energy service companies for many years. Once our local utilities implement this consolidated (or “net credit billing”) in 2021, your solar farm credits and savings will show up on the same monthly electric bill you always get. And you pay for it however you currently pay your electric bill.