Category Archives: LIPA programs

Cannot Mandate Renewable Technologies

This is the full text of a letter I sent to Newsday on December 5, 2012.

To the Editor of Newsday:

I was pleased you printed the letter regarding Long Island energy independence [Clean energy, accountability at LIPA, Newsday, December 5, 2012]. There is a vital need to continue this dialog on energy self-sufficiency and alternative energy technologies, including wind power.

As a Green Choices Consultant, member of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization (LI-GEO) and owner of an Energy Star® home with both a solar panel array and geothermal heating and cooling system, I applaud the writer for his suggestions. There are some caveats, however.

Number one: In general, it is better to incentivize change rather than legislate it. For this one thing, LIPA should be commended for its “Solar Pioneer” and “Geothermal & GeoColumn” rebate programs. These programs are funded through the Efficiency & Renewables Charges (of $0.006246 per kWH consumed, as per the monthly LIPA bill.) It is essential to continue these programs and not divert the funds to meet LIPA shortfalls.

For those who take part in these LIPA programs, rebates are sent only after the inspection and certification process. In addition, all contractors involved in these programs must be approved by LIPA. Most solar and geothermal customers use these programs to help offset costs.

Number two: Solar panels are a wonderful way to produce power for the electric grid, especially during peak demand; however the solar cells require direct sunlight for a good part of the day to generate enough electricity to make it a viable return on investment.

Many roofs lack the proper orientation to the sun for this to occur. A roof facing solar south is optimal; east-west roofs have some potential, north are impossible. Another factor is trees, which can create a significant shading issue that makes solar a poor investment.

Number three: Geothermal heating and cooling systems have their own challenges with soil conditions, which vary depending on the location on Long Island. Clay and sandy soils and underground water pose different kinds of difficulties for the geothermal engineer.

My point is that it is a good idea to consider utilizing these two technologies when building or renovating, but know that neither solar nor geothermal is right in every situation. Therefore they cannot be mandated.

One thing all homeowners can do is invest in improving the energy efficiency of their homes. This can be funded in part by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and LIPA programs, which pay for FREE home energy audits for homeowners and residential landlords. These funds can also be used by those who add energy efficiency improvements, even if they are done as part of their post-Sandy reconstruction. They will see the results every month when they pay lower electric and heating bills.

A final note: any responsible solar panel or geothermal installer will advise customers to make these energy efficiency upgrades before investing in such big-ticket items for their homes.

And yes, as Long Islanders come to accept and employ energy efficiency and conservation practices and alternative energy sources as mainstream—not fringe—technologies, our need for combustion-driven power plants, especially those outdated, polluting ones brought online only during peak demand, will decrease.

Billii Roberti
Green Choices Consulting
Member of the Town of Huntington Renewable Energy Task Force and
Co-Presenter of the Task Force’s “Home Energy Efficiency” clinics at area libraries
Member of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization (LI-GEO)
53 Hillwood Drive
Huntington Station, NY 11746
(631) 385-1387


EPA Energy Star Home Energy Star Yardstick

EPA’s Home Energy Star® Yardstick

Take the Home Energy Star® Yardstick Challenge.

How energy efficient is your home? Find out at the Energy Star website. All you need to supply is the size of your home in square feet (including basement), and one full year of electricity and heating source (natural gas, fuel oil, propane, kerosene, coal or wood) consumption.

Based on the size of your family, your zip code and utility date range, the Home Energy Yardstick calculator will determine the heating or cooling degree-days in your area. Then it will use this data together with your utility consumption to calculate your home’s energy efficiency. You will receive a score between 0 and 10. The higher the score is, the more energy efficient your home.

If you score lower than 5, it may be worth your while to make some energy efficiency improvements.

The first step is to sign up for the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program to receive a FREE Comprehensive Home Energy Audit.

Call us first. We can explain how the programs work and help you fill out the application to receive these services through Green Audit USA. As sales reps for this high integrity company, we can walk you through the entire process.

This approximately 2-3 hour inspection of your home is usually free and covers:

  • Visual inspection of the interior and exterior of your home looking for signs of energy inefficiency
  • Health and safety tests for carbon monoxide emissions, mold and water leaks
  • Blower door and other energy efficiency tests

Your energy auditor will provide you with a report on the findings and a plan to make sensible energy efficiency improvements. In addition to the free audit, as much as 80% of the funding for this work can be covered by rebates from NYSERDA and LIPA programs. You can assign these rebates to Green Audit USA to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. You may also qualify for a low-interest On-Bill Financing loan, through your LIPA bill, to cover the remaining funding..

After our home “greenovation” our score rose from 4.3 to 9.2! Of course, you don’t have to go to the extremes we went to put a real dent in your utility bills and raise your Home Energy Star® Yardstick score.

Go to, and click on the Assess Your Home link under Home Improvement heading.  You’ll be glad you did!