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Energy efficiency group goes under

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An energy efficiency not-for-profit best known for its annual alternative energy fair is closing. Community Energy Services was based in Canton and employed eight people. It was dropped from a state contract that provided most of its income. David Sommerstein reports.

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It seemed like this was Community Energy Services' moment.  The federal stimulus targets billions of dollars to weatherization and new energy projects.  President Obama sees green energy as a potent driver of a new American economy.

But CES board member Susan Kramer says the push wasn't trickling down to the North Country not-for-profit.

We certainly were a key part in providing information and education, but most of the money has actually been going to private companies.

What was keeping Community Energy Services open was a contract with NYSERDA, New York's energy efficiency agency.  NYSERDA has paid CES 150,000 dollars a year to run the North Country Energy Smart Community program across the region.  But NYSERDA abruptly informed CES this fall that it was ending that contract.

Susan Kramer says the agency couldn't handle criticism that the program was too slow and bureaucratic.

The person that was managing this particular stream became dissatisfied.  It had nothing to do with the work that CES was doing.  It was more in the respect that CES was challenging them in some areas, challenging how the programs were being run.

NYSERDA spokeswoman Coleen Ryan told the Watertown Daily Times Community Energy Services did nothing wrong and would be welcomed to submit a bid to win the contract back.  But she did say the program was being revamped.

CES' fingerprints are left throughout the North Country.  It spearheaded construction of a model energy efficient low-income home in Rensselaer Falls.  And it recently won a NYSERDA award for its work on a building in Saranac Lake that reduced energy usage by 27%.

But the not-for-profit biggest legacy is its annual sustainable energy fair, which has drawn thousands of people and grown each year.  Kramer says some groups are talking about stepping in to keep the fair alive next April, but there are no firm plans yet.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein.

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