By Martha Robertson
former Tompkins County Legislature Chairperson (six years) and Legislator (20 years)
1655 Ellis Hollow Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850; firstname.lastname@example.org; 607-592-3119
As New York State debates how to reach our CLCPA goals, I write to urge – in the strongest possible terms – passage of three bills that are essential in our battle against the worse effects of climate change:
On May 12, I watched most of the Assembly’s public hearing on the All-Electric Building Act. It was beyond frustrating to hear so many speakers say “we need more time” before we can build all-electric buildings. I invite those folks to come to Tompkins County, where it is now NORMAL for new buildings – even the biggest ones – to be all-electric.
One such example is Breckenridge Place, built back in 2014. That was eight WINTERS ago. The building is six stories tall, with 50 units of affordable housing, built by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, completely on an air source heat pump system. This is normal construction.
About five years ago, Tompkins County created a Business Energy Advisors Program. It offers individualized engineering consulting for commercial developers, for new construction, expansions, and significant renovations. The program has helped 60 participants so far, including municipal governments (e.g., the Village of Dryden and Town of Ithaca), multi-family housing developers, non-profits, and private businesses. Many of these projects include electrified heating - air source, ground source, and hot water heat pumps. More often, now, county staff is helping developers decide which heat pump option to use for their project. It’s no longer “what’s a heat pump?” It’s “which one do I use?”
Six years ago the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) created an Enhanced Energy Incentive. We front-loaded the tax abatements we offered, challenging developers to create projects that were 40% more efficient than code at the time. IDA developers are now creating buildings that are 80% more efficient than code.
In just the last five years, the IDA has incentivized 13 projects that use heat pumps instead of gas. Some have been open for several years now – including winters – while some are under construction. Among these 13 all-electric projects, there are:
We in Tompkins County are confident that these 13 developers would never gamble $615 million if electrification didn’t work.
All-electric buildings are normal. We’ve been enjoying their efficiency and their health benefits, as well as cooling and dehumidification, for years. And they can be built, now, everywhere across NYS. We need the All-Electric Building Act passed, along with the Building Standards Act and the Gas Transition Act, before the State Legislature leaves for the summer. There is absolutely no time to waste. Thank you for your time.