Ask the Expert: Making Good Energy Choices

February 15, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Autumn Schanil

Ask the Expert will attempt to inform and educate readers on the importance of sustainable energy and what lies ahead in the future as more of our nation’s energy is generated through renewable energy.

Independent Energy Navigator, Gerri Wiley, is considered an expert when it comes to guiding individuals or groups seeking to reduce their energy use, decarbonize their homes, businesses, or churches while powering their space, water and appliances with renewable energy.
Offering her services for free, each month Wiley sends out Energy Updates to groups and individuals that include timely energy information, along with listings of ethical, reliable Energy Service Companies and Subscription Community Solar companies – her main focus being the NYSEG utility territory.

With a background in Sociology and Nursing, Wiley has always been active in public health and children’s high-level wellness – interested in clean air, water, healthy food and a livable climate; which are all essential for wellness – so moving her energy towards renewable energy resources flowed easily and naturally.

“Ten years ago, I left paid employment to partner with groups throughout New York in fending off the public health threat of high-volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas development (i.e. fracking),” Wiley explained. “When this effort was successful in 2014, environmental protectors like me were able to turn our attention to the promotion of renewable energy sources. For the past seven years, I have had the remarkable opportunity to work with groups and individuals who respect and cherish the natural world and recognize the connection between human and planetary health with ‘what we eat and how we heat.’ Her main inspiration for taking this path? The sheer absence of available guidance. “There are so many factors involved in making good energy choices that unless individuals, families, and organizations have guidance from an impartial party, chances are that they will be disappointed with their selection,” Wiley stated. “Truly, who has the time or interest to do a thorough search? Who can easily sniff out a scam or even simply less than stellar practices? I had the passion for filling this gap.

The more I learn and share, the more I am called upon. I certainly don’t feel like an expert, but when I don’t have answers at hand, I relish jumping into someone’s curiosity and we learn together.” Wiley’s hope is to help people better understand their options
and to obtain the best sequence for decarbonizing their homes and buildings, which in turn helps mitigate climate change and minimize their own costs. Ways that can be done, according to Wiley, are by obtaining a home energy assessment, ensuring good insulation and sealing, electrifying/decarbonizing heating of space, water appliances, and transportation by using ground or an air-source heat pump system, induction cooktop, or an electric vehicle, and then powering your now known 100 percent electric load with solar if the rooftop or site is suitable.

“We use energy sources primarily to control the temperature of our homes, cook our food, and often to move ourselves from here to there,” said Wiley. “Granted, we use way more power than that which is needed to serve our basic needs. As the climate clock ticks away, it serves us well to minimize our use of power—any source of power beyond our own often underutilized muscle power. “A big perk for us in reducing our energy load,” she continued, “is that the cleanest, cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one not used. To the extent that we do benefit from power to meet our basic needs, it is wise to use sources that don’t require millions of years to replenish.” And according to Wiley, what better renewable power source is out there asking to be captured than the sun that comes up every morning?

“Subscribing to a Community Solar project both saves money and supports more solar development,” added Wiley. “Speaking of the future being bright for solar, this is the time for the younger generation to shine, particularly in New York State, as our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) provides the springboard for your enthusiasm and fresh ideas.”