Sustainability touches on every aspect of governing a city and the City of Albany strives to incorporate sustainability into all of our planning and projects, from street lights to fleet management to land use planning. Albany has a long track record of working towards a sustainable future, often leading the way for other communities.
Albany has implemented a wide range of environmental policies over the years. The City has increased energy efficiency by retrofitting municipal buildings and installing renewable energy options; converted almost 11,000 street lights to low-energy LEDs; implemented complete streets legislation; and promoted cleaner transportation, like bike and car share services, public transportation, and electric vehicle infrastructure, just to name a few efforts.
The City has a particular interest in reducing the emissions that lead to climate change. The scientific consensus around climate change is clear, and the City of Albany is responding strongly to become more sustainable, environmentally conscientious and prepared. Pledging to help protect the environment and fight local climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Albany has undertaken several Greenhouse Gas Inventories, developed a Climate Action Plan and undertaken a series of energy-saving policies to reduce emissions.
Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability was founded in 2010 with a mission to accelerate the development of sustainability policy and projects in the City. The office is currently staffed by a full time Energy Manager.
Sustainability Advisory Committee
The Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) was established by the City Council in 2013 to advise the Council, to advance sustainability practices and to unify action on climate change within Albany, pursuant to the Albany General Code Chapter 42 Part 8 Article XVIII Sections 42-132 to 42-138. The SAC works closely with the Energy Manager to foster sustainability in all aspects of the City.
Community Choice Aggregation
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows municipal residents to be automatically enrolled in a bulk electricity buying program which can lock in affordable rates for 100% clean energy for a predetermined amount of time. Residents have the option of opting out of the program for any reason, at any time, with no fees. The program is currently being managed by Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA), and seeks to help 13 participating municipalities in the Capital District purchase renewable electricity in bulk while supporting NY’s clean energy production . CCA is one of the ten high impact action items in the NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities Program and is authorized by the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC).
A resolution (39.61.18R) to explore Albany's participation in a CCA was first introduced in June of 2018 and passed in September of 2019. On March 2nd, 2020, Local Law B of 2020 was adopted, beginning the process which led to signing a contract with the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA) to serve as Administrator and the appointment of the CCA Oversight Board to steer the process on the City’s behalf. Albany joined thirteen other municipalities to form a negotiating bloc of 90,000 households in the Capital District CCA (CDCCA).
Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
At 37%, transportation is the second largest source of emissions in Albany. The most effective strategy for reducing tailpipe emissions is to engineer a society-wide shift away from combustion engines, replacing them with electric vehicles. At the same time, the grid electricity which charges electric vehicles must be transformed from dirty to clean energy. This is already called for in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 (CLCPA) — specifically a 70% renewable grid by 2030. In order to eliminate our transportation emissions, the people of Albany need to start driving electric cars (and taking electrified public transportation) re-fueled by a renewable grid.
New York State has set out to significantly replace our current consumer vehicle fleet. In order to meet the emissions and electrification thresholds articulated in policies such as the CLCPA and a 2013 Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) MOU signed by Governor Cuomo, New York has established a goal of realizing 850,000 zero emission vehicles in the state by the year 2025 - less than five years from now. To date, there are approximately 47,000 ZEVs operating statewide.
Albany is currently under contract to install seven electric vehicle charging stations at five locations around the city. A second round of installations is currently being considered. It is hoped that the city - partnering with NYSERDA and National Grid - can continue to install charging stations on an annual basis in coming years. In addition, the Albany Parking Authority has already installed several EV stations in city parking facilities, with ongoing plans for more installations. The Albany Public Library has also begun installing EV chargers, with one unit being installed at the Delaware Avenue branch.
Smart Street Lighting
In July of 2019, the City of Albany purchased all 10,877 street lights in the city from National Grid, the local utility. Since then, the city has been replacing all of the fixtures with energy efficient LEDs. This was projected to save the City of Albany $2.7 million in facilities charges and $1 million annually in energy costs. At the same time, the project is reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2,545 metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually.
Albany has seen how this local ownership can bring new benefits to a community. Local ownership has translated into faster response times and better maintenance, now that these lights are a city responsibility, not part of a large utility. City control of street lights can also accelerate the deployment of new technologies and capacities. In the end, locally-owned LEDs mean better and more public benefits.
The City of Albany was one of the first communities in National Grid’s service area to buy their street lights. Given the environmental and financial benefits of this program to Albany, we surely will not be the last.
Food Waste Reduction
According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), 2.8 million New Yorkers are food insecure while 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. A large portion of that uneaten food, combined with food scraps and other compostable materials, end up in landfills. The decomposition of this organic waste in landfills contributes greatly to the emission of methane - a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
In 2019, the City of Albany along with local partner organizations applied to the DEC for a Municipal Food Scraps Reduction, Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Programs Grant. Out of 27 applicants, Albany was selected to receive a total of $225,535 in grant funding for a total period of 3 years. The funding is being used to jumpstart various initiatives to address issues of food waste reduction, edible food rescue and food scraps composting in the city of Albany.