ITHACA, N.Y.—The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has announced that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County has been named the “clean energy hub” for the Southern Tier, a designation that comes with a sizable grant to help it fulfill that mission.

The exact amount of $3,516,454 was announced in a press release Friday afternoon. Each of the state’s 10 regions had at least one “clean energy hub” designated to serve as regional coordinator for NYSERDA and the greater state government’s efforts. Across all regions, the total amount awarded was over $52 million—most regions received similar amounts, except New York City with its larger urban population.

According to the release, designation as a clean energy hub means each organization will “serve as centers of outreach, awareness, and education in regions across New York State and help foster residents’ participation, especially those in underserved or otherwise disadvantaged communities, in New York’s clean energy transition.” The state has announced efforts to provide at least 35 percent of the benefits from clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities to ensure an equitable transition to renewable energy sources.

Now, if you’re like us, that sounds like a whole bunch of jargon from a bunch of state public relations reps well-versed in puffery. So we reached out to CCE’s Karim Beers of Cornell Cooperative Extension, who’s spearheading CCE’s efforts as the regional hub, to explain what the grant actually entails down at the local level.

“The funds will primarily be used to hire staff from around the 8-county (Southern Tier) region that will engage residents, especially people with limited income and from disadvantaged communities, around ways to reduce energy use and save money,” said Beers. “The Hubs’ community energy advisers (CEAs) will provide information and support through direct outreach at food lines and community festivals, as well as through workshops and presentations, to help people access incentives and programs to make sure their homes have enough insulation, are sealed up well, have affordable and clean heating systems, and have access to solar power. There are programs for homeowners and renters.”

Beers added that there will be staff employed who are focused on helping people access clean energy jobs, largely through training or connecting them to training programs.

“CEAs will also create spaces where people can give input on energy-related programs and policies that are under development by the state,” he said. “The CEA serving Tompkins county will partner with other local initiatives such as the Ithaca Green New Deal and others to contribute to their success.”

So in summary, this $3.5 million is for clean energy outreach, engagement and education services led regionally by CCE of Tompkins County. Examples run the gamut from job training for clean energy industries, providing home energy assessments, helping people find energy incentives and qualified contractors for home renovations that reduce energy use or increase the efficiency of home utilities, help obtaining electric vehicle rebates, community solar signups, and so on.

Let’s be honest, to the unfamiliar, the Ithaca Green New Deal and NYS Climate Act reads like a bunch of academic gobbledygook. This helps to make programs spurred by those government acts accessible and understandable, helping the city and state to achieve the goals set forth by that gobbledygook. The CEAs serve as policy translators and program guides for their communities.

Beers added that CCE is currently interviewing candidates next week for the Tompkins community energy advisor position for an intended January start. Advisers in Delaware, Tioga and Chemung counties have already started.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.