Cornell has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Resource Solutions for its efforts to advance access, education, and public interest and engagement in renewable energy resources, especially in low-income communities.
Robert Bland, associate vice president for energy and sustainability in Facilities and Campus Services, accepted the Leadership in Green Power Education Award Oct. 10 at the 2018 Renewable Energy Markets Conference in Houston.
“Cornell is proud to receive this prestigious award,” said Katherine McComas, vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs. “Through this recognition, we can continue to acknowledge and support the students, staff and researchers whose collaborative efforts advance green power access and adoption to improve the lives and livelihoods of communities in New York state and beyond.”
The award recognized the more than 30 Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC) educational programs advancing statewide renewable energy adoption. These programs help residents transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and reduce overall energy use through outreach and education about solar, wood heating, energy efficiency upgrades, heat pumps and behavior change.
- Community engagement support for SolarTompkins and HeartSmartTompkins to engage residents in all 10 major municipalities in the county with solar and heat-pump campaigns;
- Support for 25 municipal partners through NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities Program, ensuring facilities were made eligible for state/federal green energy funding;
- Opening five university solar farms to K-12 tours emphasizing STEM and green energy careers; and
- Producing and disseminating a financial and land-use guidebook, “Accelerating Large-Scale Wind and Solar Energy in New York: Principles and Recommendations,” to rural farmers in every New York county through the Cornell Community and Regional Development Institute.
Low-income communities have received particular focus. Cornell students surveyed 500 low-income families who had applied for green energy programs, and their findings helped community advocates better promote green policies in their local areas. The CCETC Energy Navigators program pairs families in four counties with a community peer trained to guide customers on implementing green energy improvements. And Cornell has partnered with New York State Electric and Gas to study and inform home and business owners’ use of smart-meter data as part of an Energy Smart Community seeking to grow green power adoption through networked data analysis.
Through these efforts the county exceeded its goal of doubling residential solar installations, and Cornell has successfully supported hundreds of consumers in saving money and advancing green power adoption.
Cornell has been a leader in sustainability since the early 1880s, when its hydroelectric plant went online. The university has a goal of achieving carbon neutrality using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and it has invested more than $35 million in energy conservation initiatives since 2008. Cornell has received national attention for its sustainability efforts.
This year the Sierra Club listed Cornell in its top 20 universities in sustainability and recognized Cornell’s work in Earth Source Heat, Lake Source Cooling, sustainable food and dining projects, and the sustainable landscapes trail.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education gave Cornell a gold rating, recognizing Cornell in its 2018 Sustainable Campus Index, placing the university first in the U.S. in the category of sustainability planning and governance.