The Bethany Clean Energy Task Force (CETF) was created by First Selectwoman Derrilyn Gorski in 2005 after the Board of Selectmen passed a resolution to participate in Connecticut’s 20% by 2010 campaign. The “20% by 2010 Campaign” was a Connecticut not-for-profit initiative to encourage community action in support of putting Connecticut’s consumers on a path to having 20 percent of their electricity supply come from clean, renewable energy sources by the year 2010. The Task Force was charged with the responsibility not only of advising the Board of Selectmen on how to attain this goal, but also to encourage and assist town residents reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources. George Benedetti and Michael Okrent were appointed co-chairmen of the CETF. Both George and Mike had long standing interest in clean energy and were dedicated to achieving these goals. Isabel Kearns was apponted as the town liaison for the group.
As with all volunteer organizations, finding committed Task Force members was a key priority. Fortunately, Bethany has a large number of energy conscious residents who were committed to assist. Partnering with the Amity High School Global Warming Club, the CETF embarked on the Clean Energy Options Program as its’ first project. The CETF used many opportunities to encourage more than 15% of town residents to sign up for the Clean Energy Options program. On Election Day, November 2006, more than 100 households signed up for Clean Energy Options. This represented the fastest rate of sign-ups in the State, and Bethany was awarded its first 8kW solar PV system recognizing this accomplishment.
Earth Day 2007. The CETF and the Amity High School Global Warming Club sponsored a viewing of the film, An Inconvenient Truth, at Bethany Town Hall. The film was introduced via telephone by actors and environmental activists, Ed Begley Jr. and his wife, Rachelle Carson, who spoke with the Bethany audience.
The Bethany CETF also organized its first Earth Day Fair in 2007, sponsored by Laticrete. There were a large variety of vendors and local clubs in attendance, and an exhibition of electric and hybrid cars. First Selectwoman Derrilyn Gorski announced April 21st, 2007 as Mike Okrent Day in recognition of this event. The Amity High Global Warming Club continued our efforts to sign up households for Clean Energy, and also collected donations in support of the Bethany Land Trust.
These efforts did not go unnoticed. In 2007, the CETF was recognized by the Conservation Commission for meritorious service. In response to its commitment to the Clean Energy Options Program, the town was awarded several additional solar PV systems. These systems are installed on the Bethany Community School, and on the new and old firehouses. At the same time that town residents were committing to clean energy, the town was also committing to clean energy. At this time the town negotiated a new energy contract that committed the town to purchase 10% of its electricity usage from renewable sources.
The Bethany CETF continued to provide educational programs and opportunities for engaging in Clean Energy, with Mike Okrent as its sole Chairman beginning in 2008. The CETF continued to sponsor alternative energy speakers who presented information about various technologies with cost/benefit analyses. The ever-growing community of Clean Energy Households was recognized with mailbox stickers to highlight the homes who opted for clean energy.
A fund-raising effort focused on the natural, rural beauty of Bethany as displayed in Beautiful Bethany Calendars, 2008-2011. Photos taken by Bethany residents graced the calendars. A few examples are shown here.
With the support of the Bethany CETF, the Amity High Global Warming Club signed up households in Woodbridge and Orange in addition to their continuing work in Bethany, with the goal of receiving a solar array for their school. They reached their goal in December of 2008, achieving sufficient sign-ups to win a 3KW solar array for the Amity High School roof. In honor of their helping to sign up almost 500 households in the Amity region, the Club was given the State of Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Award in 2009, as well as the 2009 Connecticut Climate Change Leadership Award from the State of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, Governor’s Steering Committee on Climate Change.
The Chairman of the Bethany CETF, Mike Okrent, also received an award that year for his initiative and dedication in driving the CETF efforts. Mike was named Bethany Citizen of the Year.
Since 2009, the CETF has continued to provide programs to assist residents save money while at the same time reducing dependence on non-renewable energy resources. The programs introduced include Neighbor to Neighbor, CT Solar Challenge and most recently, Bethany Conserves.
The CETF also supports the Buy Local movement. CETF member Nelly Rabinowitz created the Bethany Farmer’s Market (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bethany-CT-Farmers-Market/171830646224253) in 2010, with vendors providing fresh produce, organic cheeses and meats, flowers and crafts.
Among the key supporters of the Farmer’s Market is Clovernook Farm (http://clovernookfarm.com), a family operated farm that strives for sustainable agriculture.
In 2013, Mike Okrent and his wife moved away from Bethany and the leadership of the CETF was turned over to Eric Frieden.
A major goal of the Bethany CETF has been to pursue new sources of clean energy for the town and its residents. The CETF has succeeded in acquiring a total of 14kW, and leasing an additional 22.5kW of solar arrays to generate electricity for the town, reducing the town’s energy bills and our reliance on fossil fuels. These solar arrays can be seen on a variety of town buildings, including Town Hall, the old and new firehouses, and the Bethany Community School.
The CETF also looked for opportunities for Bethany residents to acquire solar arrays for their own homes at reduced cost, and initiated The CT Solar Challenge, beginning with a Solar Workshop in February 2013. Bethany partnered with the State of CT and with Aegis Solar Energy, and to date more than 25 Bethany households have taken advantage of this opportunity obtaining solar panels that generate electricity or hot water.
Beginning in the winter of 2014, the Bethany CETF initiated a partnership with a local business, New England Conserves, to create the Bethany Conserves program. This program helps encourages Bethany residents to improve the insulation for their homes through a group pricing strategy. This program ran through December, 2014.
The Bethany CETF has been in existence since 2006 and in less than 10 years, the Bethany Clean Energy Task Force has been instrumental in bringing opportunities for reducing dependence on non-renewable resources and has been recognized by CL&P and by the state of Connecticut for its efforts in promoting Clean Energy.