As municipalities seek to reduce cost and increase operational efficiency, the assessment of carbon footprint is a useful approach. The cost reductions achieved by increasing energy efficiency can be used to reach sustainability and green operations goals, as well. Spencer Wallach ’15 is assisting the Village and Town of Hamilton in the development of their climate action plans. He works closely with Village Mayor Margaret Miller, Village Administrator Sean Graham, and Town of Hamilton Board member Peter Darby.
Spencer’s project involves assessment of current energy use patterns in Village and Town operations, with particular emphasis on service vehicles used in road maintenance. “I have learned that the Town and Village of Hamilton are both very efficient already with their respective resources.” The Village Municipal Utility Corporation (MUC) purchases relatively low-carbon electric power from the New York Power Authority, resulting in very low carbon impact related to electricity use by the Village and surrounding portions of the Town.
One goal of Spencer’s summer field school project is to develop scenarios for vehicle replacement that can be assessed with regard to cost and potential carbon reduction. Since the Village MUC is moving to provide natural gas service to the village area, Spencer has examined to possible conversion of some service vehicles to natural gas. This analysis considers factors such as driving distances, location of refueling stations, costs of new vehicle purchases or conversions, and the likely payback time for these investments, as well as the carbon reduction that would be gained.
Working with Village and Town leaders also gives insight into the functions of small municipal governments, with plenty of opportunity to engage co-workers. Spencer meets with John Pumilio, Colgate’s Director of Sustainability, to brainstorm and develop scenarios. As Spencer puts it “It is difficult to be creative, coming up with projects, but I do enjoy the challenges, and the opportunity to bounce my ideas off other people, while trying to get ideas from them.”
Spencer is a member of Colgate’s varsity football team, and hails from the Binghamton, NY area. Working on a project supporting the local community was a key element in his decision to participate in the Upstate Institute’s Summer Field School. As a geology major, working on energy issues fits nicely with Spencer’s academic program. “I was immediately attracted to the job because it is related to the field of geology, and is an area I would like to pursue after I graduation. The opportunity to work in the summer performing a service that could have a very positive impact was also a huge attraction to me.”