Suffolk County has produced nearly $5 million in net annual savings through projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new proposed climate action plan.
The two-year study also found the county cut energy use between 30 percent and 60 percent in the 30 county buildings targeted by energy initiatives.
"When you add up all the retrofits, there have been real savings for the taxpayers," said Neal Lewis, executive director of Molloy College's Sustainability Institute. Lewis chaired the study, which was conducted by a committee appointed by the Suffolk County Legislature.
The action plan also calls on the county to continue annual maintenance of heating and cooling systems to improve efficiency and to pursue technology to provide county buildings with real-time monitoring of energy use. A legislative vote on the plan is expected Tuesday.
The county study, begun in 2012 and funded by the state, focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from county operations and recommending policies and initiatives the private sector could use to reduce Suffolk's carbon footprint.
The aim is for county government to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and make similar private sector reductions countywide.
Suffolk County already has reduced carbon emissions by 10 percent, from 19.05 million metric tons in 2005 to 17.12 million metric tons in 2010, Lewis said.
Although the study focused on county operations, Lewis was joined by Mark Thielking, executive director of the nonprofit Energy Improvement Corp., an arm of the state's Energize NY, which helps private businesses finance energy-saving measures. The program provides businesses with low-cost financing -- from 3.5 percent to 6 percent -- for energy-saving projects. Payments are made on property tax bills.
Thielking estimated that, statewide, companies pay $35 billion in energy costs annually and $10.5 billion could be saved by upgrading heating and cooling systems.
Although Energize NY was launched a year ago, only one project in Dutchess County has moved forward so far: $70,000 in financing on a $150,000 solar project for a local farm. A second project for an affordable housing project should close in the next month, Thielking said.
So far 21 counties have joined the state initiative and another 21, including Suffolk, are in talks with Energy Improvement Corp.
Thielking said banks have already authorized $75 million in financing for the program and there is potential for "hundreds of millions of dollars" in retrofits moving forward.
Under the program, Energy Improvement Corp. could finance up to 10 percent of the property's value and would vet applicants to ensure they have paid their last three years of taxes, not declared bankruptcy in seven years and have no mortgage exceeding 80 percent of the property value.
Tax assessors would add the financing charge to the property tax of the building and forward those payments to Energy Improvement Corp. If a business fails to pay, the county would be required to continue to repay the loan until the property is taken for nonpayment of taxes or the owner makes payment. If the county suffers a permanent loss, it can apply to a municipal loss reserve fund for repayment.