What We Do

Our Purpose

What is the Climate Smart Communities Program?

The New York State Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Program provides guidance to local governments in their efforts to  mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and to adopt climate friendly policies while maintaining a vibrant and sustainable economy. The benefits of participating in the CSC program include free technical assistance, access to grants, and recognition of progress through various levels of certification. Local governments participate by adopting a voluntary pledge and using the CSC framework to guide and measure progress toward creating healthy and safe places in which to live and work.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors (BOS) joined the CSC program on November 10, 2020 and established our Task Force four months later on March 10, 2021. This Task Force is currently comprised of county residents, town supervisors, county staff, and expert advisors. To achieve certification the CSC program requires the county to complete a minimum number of actions. 

Current actions for certification fall under 12 categories known as Pledge Elements:

1. Build a Climate Smart Community.

2. Inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action.

3. Decrease energy use.

4. Shift to clean, renewable energy.

5. Use climate-smart materials management.

6. Implement climate-smart land use

7. Enhance community resilience to climate change

8. Support a green innovation economy.

9. Inform and inspire the public.

10. Engage in an evolving process of climate action.

11. Innovation

12. Performance

The first level of certification at the bronze level requires the county to complete actions totaling at least 120 points. These actions must fall under at least four different pledge elements. Two of these actions are mandatory and three must be identified as priority actions.

Grant funding is available from state and private sources to support these projects. In 2019, more than $11 million dollars was allocated through the Department of Environmental Conservation CSC grant program, with individual grants ranging from $10,000 to $2 million. These grants can support a wide range of activities such as conducting a greenhouse gas inventory or developing a climate action plan. Funds can also be used for climate-resilient infrastructure projects like enlarged culverts, green energy and transportation initiatives, and solid waste management projects. Funding is available for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, including reducing flood risk, increasing natural resiliency, and relocating or retrofitting critical infrastructure.

Learn more about the NY State Climate Smart Communities program at:

What is the Clean Energy Communities Program?

The NYSERDA CEC program provides tools and resources to participating communities to help them implement High Impact Action items leading to increased access to grant funding. Communities earn points for every high-impact action they complete. Once a community earns a certain number of points, it becomes eligible for larger grant amounts. Communities that complete at least four high-impact actions are eligible to apply for grants to fund additional clean energy projects and earn the Clean Energy Communities designation.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors (BOS) joined the CEC program on July 14, 2021. Columbia County completed its first four high-impact actions in November of 2022 and is now a Designated Clean Energy Community.

CEC High Impact Actions that earn points toward grant funding and designation:

(Paraphrased from the NYSERDA CEC website)

Benchmarking: Up to 1,800 points

Local governments can adopt a policy that requires annual reporting of energy used in municipal buildings or in large private buildings.

Build Ready: Up to 800 points

The Build-Ready Program advances large-scale renewable energy projects on underutilized land, such as brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, parking lots, and abandoned or existing commercial and industrial sites.

Renewable Energy: Up to 4,600 points

Municipalities can engage with clean energy technologies by subscribing municipal accounts to clean CDG (e.g., community solar), and/or hosting or installing clean distributed energy resources, such as solar, wind, or hydro on municipal property.

Clean Energy Upgrades and Municipal Building Demo: Up to 4,100 points

Municipalities can reduce emissions in municipal buildings and act as an example for the community by upgrading existing municipal buildings with energy efficiency technology, building or retrofitting facilities with heat pumps, and/or achieving net zero facilities.

LED Streetlights: Up to 900 points

Communities can reduce their streetlight energy use by as much as 65% by installing energy-efficient LED lighting, generating cost savings and emission reduction.

Thermal Energy Networks: Up to 1,000 points

A thermal energy network uses a network of pipes to connect multiple buildings together, often including a large anchor off-taker (e.g., college/university, hospital), and to thermal sources and sinks, such as geothermal, surface water, waste heat, and the air, to provide space heating cooling and domestic hot water.

Community Campaigns: Up to 3,800 points

Community Campaigns to promote program opportunities including community solar, electric vehicles, and clean heating and cooling can provide consumers with increased access to clean energy.

County-Hosted Trainings: Up to 1,200 points

The County-Hosted Trainings high-impact action is designed to convene and help communities understand how to manage responsible clean energy development in their communities.

Energy Code Enforcement Training: 300 points

The Energy Code—a minimum building standard for energy efficiency—is applicable to new construction and renovation of commercial and residential buildings.

Climate Smart Communities Certification: Up to 1,400 Points

The certification program provides a framework for local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build community resilience to climate change.

Community Choice Aggregation: Up to 2,000 points

Local governments can choose the source of their community’s energy supply while negotiating lower rates and ensuring a greater percentage of electricity comes from renewable sources.

Green Financing: Up to 1,000 points

Municipalities can establish an Open C-PACE Financing program and/or help promote NY Green Bank financing to enable eligible commercially owned buildings to secure funds for renewable energy upgrades.

Clean Fleets: Up to 6,700 points

Local governments throughout the State are investing in electric vehicles and infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants.

Electric Landscaping Equipment: 200 points

Landscaping Equipment for municipal operations is a significant contributor to operational GHG emissions, noise, and other pollutants.

Municipal Clean Fleets Inventory: 200 points

Municipalities have a wide range of vehicles across their fleet, varying from light-duty cars (police cruisers and inspection vehicles) to medium & heavy-duty (box trucks and shuttles).

Learn more about the NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities program at: