Herb Oringel - Chair of the Somers Energy Environment Committee on the establishment of Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition (NWEAC).
This is a brief description of the genesis of what has become an innovative and admired intermunicipal collaboration whose purpose it is to address commonly held issues and opportunities in the general areas of energy and the environment.
January 31, 2009 - as I was driving to Fox Lane High School to observe the Bedford Environmental Summit, sponsored by, among others, the Bedford Energy Advisory Panel, I really did not know what to expect. When I arrived at the parking lot and pulled into what appeared to be the last of 1,000 spaces, I realized this was going to be a watershed event and it was!
In an indirect but relevant way, the success of the Bedford event was the
beginning and impetus for our Consortium. At the event, I spoke with representatives of neighboring communities; as well as, County officials about replicating the event in other northern Westchester County communities. More importantly, we discussed the common issues and opportunities shared by these communities.
March 30, 2009 - towards the end of March, the DOE and ICLEI hosted information meetings about community access to the then new Stimulus Funds. An arbitrary population cutoff of 35,000 was used to segment municipalities above which a Municipality would have access to funds on a pro-rata basis. Municipalities with less than 35,000 were to compete for funds based on their projects and the metrics associated with successful implementation. It was at this time, that I realized there was an unplanned opportunity to participate in the funding process by joining with neighboring Municipalities of a similar make-up. I asked about this on a large conference call hosted by the DOE lead and was rewarded with support and
enthusiasm for this attempt at inter-municipal collaboration and cooperation. Thus began the joining together of 14 Municipalities which agreed to focus initially on Energy Efficiency in our residences; as well as, the benefits to the Consortium members of the Smart Grid initiative.
March 10, 2010 - In the intervening year, after many meetings and conference calls, what has followed is an amazing collaboration amongst the highly skilled leaders of the various communities. We found much to our delight that our team was comprised of business, marketing, finance, technical, communications and municipal experts. This Team could not have been chosen any better even if we handpicked the members.
An enormous amount of research and outreach by the Bedford team gave rise to an innovative PACE financing program for homeowners who wish to have their homes retrofitted so as to reduce their Carbon footprints.
Another team developed a Smart Grid initiative one of the objectives of which is to compensate our Municipalities for compliance to NYS directives to shed load. This will be measured and justified through the use of properly placed nodal meters within our network. Cooperation with our local utilities has enabled us to develop the approach and details. Other leaders, both Town officials and volunteers contributed mightily to the language and BY-LAWS of the formalization of the Consortium. This was truly an amazing process to observe and in which to participate.
Along the way, the Consortium has applied for substantial funding in order to fully implement our plans for Energy Efficiency, Carbon Footprint analysis, development of Climate Action Plans and the launching of the aforementioned Smart Grid initiative. We are delighted to report that earlier this week we were notified that Grant applications totaling $811,000 were approved for our member Municipalities.
We are poised to address other regional issues like Waste Management, Sustainable Food, Transportation and Renewable Energy use. In addition, we have been asked to potentially expand our scope and coverage to include Putnam County and the Mid-Hudson Valley to our North.