Skip to content

☁️ "Ithaca’s Novel Plan to Eliminate Carbon from Buildings"

The Carbon Copy

Photo by Ty Finck / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Stephen Lacey
Guests: Luis Aguirre-Torres | Director of Sustainability | City of Ithaca, NY &
Katherine Hamilton | Chair | 38 North Solutions
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[0:39] LA: “[The Green New Deal] brought pressure to the local government and [organizers] started pushing for a change, so pushing the major and common council to pay more attention to climate change. […] The city [of Ithaca] was committing to achieve full decarbonisation citywide by 2030.

[3:19] LA: “Obviously […] this is a very large program. The one thing that I did when I started looking at this [is] I made the decision [to] go for buildings. But we're gonna do energy efficiency retrofitting at the same time we're doing electrification. And that will take me half the way to where I need to go like 50%, at least of the emissions. […] But then everybody warned me, tackling existing buildings is a nightmare for anybody. […] And they weren’t wrong. […] To do a very deep retrofit […] a rundown single family home could cost you $50,000. […] Suddenly I have a program that I wanted to implement, to retrofit and electrify 1000 residential buildings, including single family and multifamily and then 600 commercial buildings […]. Then it was all about how do we pay for this?”

[8:17] LA: “When we started talking to investors to [fund] this, I realized that […] there is this willingness to participate […]. The Biden administration basically brought this to the forefront of every board of every fund. They see this as an opportunity.”

[11:52] KH: “What we need to look at here with Ithaca is can you translate what this kind of community is doing to other communities that are very different all over the country and all over the world? […] It is significant that they're going out to the private sector. I mean Ithaca is a very small community, their budget is not very big. And so they've already gotten $100 million of investment commitments, and going out to the private sector, and then looking at other creative financing, for example, the New York Green Bank or through NYSERDA, because New York State, of course, has these bigger goals, too. So there are lots of resources in the state. And I believe there will be some federal resources that they will have access to as well.”

[12:53] KH: “The infrastructure bill is going to allow capitalization of revolving loan funds for states and that will provide commercial energy audits, upgrades, retrofits for buildings. This is perfect for a community like Ithaca to access. And then if you look at what's coming down the pike with the Build Back Better Act, there’re tax credits for energy efficiency, there will be all kinds of rebates for residential electrification and energy efficiency, home energy performance based, whole house retrofits, training grants for contractors. There's a lot in that bill that is certainly going to be climate focused and pegged to greenhouse gases that I think will be perfect for Ithaca.”

[13:42] KH: “I think we have to think of capital in a couple different ways. So some of these federal initiatives are really about bringing together taxpayer dollars to invest in these communities. But there's plenty of other private capital out there. So as that private capital looks, and they look at the COP to see what direction are we going in? And what are the commitments that all these countries are making to try to move toward a carbon free future? I think that private sector capital is still going to be there and will only continue to grow. So yes, we need federal government investment. I think that's crucial. But I don't think that not having it would completely stop things like what Ithaca is trying to do. I think we'll learn a lot from Ithaca. This is the first city in the world trying to do this, and I think we're gonna learn a lot from them.”

[15:01] LA: “We can become the catalyst for this change that the country needs from the bottom up. And eventually the state government will catch up with us. And eventually the federal government will catch up with us. And in the meantime, we'll share the learnings, the experience with other cities around the world. So this is the beginning of a revolution. This is the beginning of an actual change that is possible and we are demonstrating that is possible and we're sharing this experience. It doesn't mean that tomorrow, everybody's going to do this. It just means that tomorrow, everybody's going to be aware that they can do this. It's up to them what they do with that.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 16 min | 🗓️ 11/30/2021
✅ Time saved: 14 min