20 Mar Oneonta Board Aims to Boost Green Energy
To boost energy options for commercial and residential sectors, the Oneonta Town Board recently adopted resolutions supporting access to renewable resources and financial programs.
The resolutions also promote incentives for use and development of green energy and encourage approval by Otsego County of a property assessment model to finance energy-related improvements.
The Town Board doesn’t have a specific policy on energy, Supervisor Robert Wood said Wednesday. But councilmen are interested in energy conservation and development, particularly “green” or renewable resources, he said, as well as access to renewables and programs for the municipality and the community.
At a meeting June 8, the Town Board unanimously passed three resolutions to promote use of renewable energy technologies to enhance economic development through incentives and enactment of “property assessed clean energy” or PACE legislation.
The PACE innovative model is a mechanism for property owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, federal and state officials said.
Town Councilman Michael Stolzer said an original resolution he proposed was divided into three to be more specifically addressed to the Otsego County Board of Representatives, the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency and to the state of New York.
The resolutions to the IDA and the Board of Representatives seek support and approval, respectively, of the PACE legislation, which Stolzer said is an important factor for generating economic development. For example, a business approved for PACE assistance can apply its energy savings to the company and grow, he said.
PACE has been adopted in New York, among many other states, Stolzer said, and PACE enabling legislation must be passed by Otsego County in order for property owners in local municipalities to participate.
PACE programs allow local governments, state governments or other authorities, when approved by state law, to fund the up-front cost of energy improvements on commercial and residential properties, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Property owners in a PACE program repay improvement costs over a set time period, such as 20 years, through property assessments, which are secured by the property itself and paid as part of the owners’ property tax bills, the Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said. Nonpayment generally results in the same type of repercussions as failure to pay other portions of a property tax bill, according to the energy website.
A PACE debt is tied to the property so the repayment obligation transfers with property ownership, depending upon state legislation, the site said. This provision eliminates a key disincentive to investing in energy improvements, the site said, because many property owners hesitate to make such improvements if they think they may not stay in the property long enough for savings to cover the upfront costs.
Stolzer said he knows of no other towns in Otsego County that have passed resolutions about PACE legislation and other energy-related incentives and he is sending copies this week to municipal officials to further the program.
Stolzer, a property owner, landlord and artist, said he is motivated by concerns about the use of fossil fuels. Also, increasing energy options could result in savings, and for residents to have their own supply of energy instead of being “captive customers” of utility companies “is a democratic idea that I like,” he said.
On Wednesday, the state Public Service Commission approved three-year electric and gas rate plans for New York Electric and Gas. Corp. that includes an increase in delivery charges of about $2 monthly for typical residential electric customers, effective July 1, a media release from the state said.
Stolzer said another exciting possibility is public access to energy through aggregate offerings such as the Municipal Electric & Gas Alliance, which this month gave a presentation to the Town Board.
Wood said developing such an aggregate plan would require public hearings and other outreach to taxpayers, a process that could take 10 months to a year. The topic will be on future Town Board agendas, he said.
The town of Oneonta purchases energy through MEGA, officials said, and other customers include Otsego County, the city of Oneonta, the Oneonta City School District, Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center and about 10 other school districts and municipalities in the county.