The Village of Hastings reached #1 on the New York State Clean Energy Communities leaderboard last week, amassing the most points of any participating municipality. The village earned that honor by performing actions related to clean energy and sustainability. 

“It’s completely exciting to be at the top of the state,” Mayor Niki Armacost said on March 4. “In terms of philosophy, what we care about is pushing the envelope in terms of climate change. So being recognized for that is something that’s really exciting, and it’s a recognition of all the amazing people that have been involved. That includes volunteers, and it also includes Village staff that have done a lot of work to get us to that point.”

The Clean Energy Communities (CEC) program was launched in 2016 by NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. While it’s always nice to win bragging rights for helping to preserve the environment, CEC also offers rewards to help communities do that, in the form of cash grants and guidance for implementing clean energy practices. 

Communities earn points for performing “high-impact” actions such as using 100 percent renewable energy, installing LED street lights, signing up for a community choice aggregation program to save money on green energy, and participating in the Climate Smart Communities certification program.

A locality can be designated a “Clean Energy Community” after completing four such high-impact actions, making it eligible for a $5,000 Designation Grant. 

After that, the door is open to collect points for additional high-impact actions. When a community reaches certain point thresholds, it becomes eligible for additional grants. 

As of March 5, Hastings had 4,800 points, 400 more than its closest competitor, the City of Beacon, and 700 more than Croton-on-Hudson, which was third. In the Rivertowns, the Village of Dobbs Ferry had 3,200 points, and Ardsley and Irvington each had 800 points. 

“We know, as of now, we are entitled to $35,000.” But that’s just the beginning, Armacost said. “If we get another 200 points, we get another $70,000.”

So far, Hastings earned 1,500 points for participating in a community choice aggregation (CCA) program, through which all electricity customers in the village receive energy from renewable sources at a fixed rate.

It also earned 1,200 points for implementing the New York Stretch Energy Code last June, which applies to new construction, not to existing buildings. Armacost described the Stretch Energy Code.

“It has more stringent requirements than the typical energy code,” Armacost said. “Within three or four years, it will be the standard energy code. So our building inspector, Buddy Minozzi, was fully on board with that; he saw it would be something that would be beneficial... in the long run.”

The Village earned 700 points for installing LED streetlights, and 800 points for reaching Silver-level certification in the Climate Smart Communities program, an affiliated initiative of New York State. It also earned 300 points for “benchmarking,” where a local government analyzes the energy consumption of the buildings it owns, then puts energy-saving practices into use and measures whether its energy use decreases. 

“The library has reduced its energy consumption pretty dramatically,” Armacost said. “Other buildings haven’t. It’s a good tool.”

Hastings also earned 200 points for establishing a unified solar permit, which streamlined the system for allowing solar panels to be installed on roofs. In addition, its recent purchase of an all-electric car as part of the municipal fleet was worth 100 points. 

No decision has been made about what the Village will do with its CEC grant money. “What I’d love to do is see if we get the $70,000, which would be amazing,” Armacost said. “And then we’d have $105,000. We did a municipal building energy audit and there’s a whole slew of recommendations they made that we would like to do, so we would decide on those options.”

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