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Most communities have recycling programs, and many local governments also take some measures to reduce energy use in public buildings. However, not many governments are going further than that. 

Sara Screen ShotA survey published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government finds that 90 percent of governments report on recycling….and only 23 percent report on alternative energy generation. 

The IBM survey cites the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which has concluded that building momentum for sustainability at the local level is the “issue of our age.”

According to the IBM survey, just one in six local governments is taking extensive actions to pursue sustainable-energy policies.

Ron Carlee, ICMA’s  Executive in Residence/Chief Operating Officer, defines sustainability this way:

Sustainability is the ability of communities to consistently thrive over time. Sustainability involves making decisions to improve a community today without sacrificing its future. Sustainable communities are resilient. When unexpected calamities happen—an economic collapse, a natural disaster, or terrorist attack—sustainable communities bounce back.

To meet this definition, more and more local governments are expanding beyond their recycling programs and basic efforts to reduce energy use in buildings. More local governments are researching and implementing alternative energy methods, such as microgrids, with a recent example being the Village of Ossining’s commitment to utilizing the research on microgrid technology done by the Pace University Environmental Policy Clinic.

Still, communities with government programs and partnerships to research and implement energy initiatives such as The Village of Ossining and Ithaca, New York remain the exception.

This is unfortunate, because most energy initiatives involving policies promoting efficiency or  distributed power generation and the like are best applied from the bottom up. Each community has specific and different needs that are known most well by governments on the local level.

In the end, it is up to governments on the most local level to take the initiative in researching and implementing alternative energy resources such as microgrids, and to determine what is right for their community.

As the IBM report concludes:

Building a sustainable community requires contributions from all levels of government, all sectors of the economy, and all of the citizenry. Because local governments provide services that affect the allocation and use of resources—from transportation and solid waste collection to zoning and land use—they are uniquely positioned to promote sustainability through policy and program initiatives.

Local governments are able to make a large impact. Programs such as Energize Ithaca and green initiatives in Sarasota County, Florida, allow communities to provide a more sustainable future for their residents within their localities. One by one, communities are working to make themselves more resilient.

The concern of sustainability is what led the Pace Environmental Clinic to team up with the Village of Ossining to research microgrid technology. The Village of Ossining is beginning to take steps in becoming a local government that takes an extensive approach on developing more sustainable energy systems.

The survey findings suggest that the first step a local government should take in developing an energy action strategy is “obtaining a formal commitment from the governing board that includes goals, targets, and broad but flexible strategies that can change as progress is made.”

This is precisely what the Village of Ossining has done by passing a resolution drafted by the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic. Research will be done on microgrid and combined heat and power energy methods to provide a more sustainable future for the Village.

 The Pace University Environmental Clinic’s Energy Resilience Team will continue working with the Village of Ossining to research energy methods for a more sustainable future.

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