The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced new and advanced initiatives to help address environmental justice and support disadvantaged communities. NYSERDA made available more than $10.6 million to help underserved New Yorkers access clean, affordable and reliable solar, representing the first step in implementing New York’s Social Energy Equity Framework.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, grants provided through the Affordable Solar and Energy Storage Predevelopment and Technical Assistance Program will help offset predevelopment costs to address system installation barriers as part of the State’s efforts to jumpstart the reopening and recovery of New York’s economy. In May the New York Public Service Commission approved a $573 million expansion of the NY-Sun Program including a total of $200 million projected to help activities focused on low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, affordable housing, environmental justice and disadvantaged communities. These efforts support Governor Cuomo’s goal to install 6,000 megawatts of distributed solar by 2025, as adopted by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
In addition, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the appointment of the nine members of the Climate Justice Working Group to help guide the implementation of the CLCPA. The CLCPA Climate Action Council (Council) is co-chaired by DEC Commissioner Seggos and Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA.
Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA, Climate Action Council Co-Chair, said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has prioritized expanding access to clean, affordable energy to all New Yorkers, especially those living in environmental justice and disadvantaged communities which are often disproportionately affected by adverse health impacts caused by climate change. The relaunch of this program will help reduce predevelopment cost and risk to ensure critical solar and energy projects are able to move forward cost-effectively while also bringing environmental and economic benefits to underserved New Yorkers.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, Climate Action Council Co-Chair said, “The Climate Justice Working Group will work to ensure that all of New York’s communities are represented in planning for and implementing the State’s transition to a cleaner energy future, and that all New Yorkers benefit from investments and opportunities provided by this historic transition. As co-chair of the Climate Action Council, I am committed to ensuring healthy environments for all and that cannot be accomplished without acknowledging that many communities have been disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution. The Climate Justice Working Group will support the Council’s efforts to builder a greener, healthier future for all New Yorkers.”
Affordable Solar Energy
Multiple barriers unique to serving low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities hinder financing, procurement, marketing/outreach, and other components of solar and/or energy storage project development. Community organizations and affordable housing providers are critical partners in developing locally driven solutions to these barriers and achieving equitable access to the benefits of solar and/or storage for LMI households in New York. This funding opportunity aims to provide these on-the-ground allies with the resources to get solar projects off the ground and deliver clean power where it matters most.
As part of Governor Cuomo’s signature NY-Sun initiative, NYSERDA will provide grants up to $200,000 to affordable housing providers, community organizations or entities, and technical service providers to address market barriers to install solar and energy storage systems benefitting LMI households and other disadvantaged communities. Individual awards will be evaluated on project scope/feasibility, market potential, and project benefits and economics and help to reduce costs for predevelopment and technical assistance work needed to implement solar and/or energy storage installations.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling, quarterly basis through December 31, 2024. NYSERDA is hosting a webinar on July 14, 2020 to launch this funding opportunity and provide application information. To register, or for more information visit www.nyserda.ny.gov/aspta.
Under the previous predevelopment and technical assistance program which closed in August 2018, NY-Sun awarded more than $2.75 million to 21 predevelopment projects across the state. As of May 2020, these projects have resulted in the installation of over three megawatts of solar energy that will benefit over 1,000 LMI households in New York, with a much larger pipeline of projects in the development process. A total of 40 percent of New York State households have incomes considered low to moderate. That is, they earn less than 80 percent of the median income for the community where they live.
Under the State’s historic CLCPA, signed into law by Governor Cuomo last July, New York made a landmark commitment for agencies to invest 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of clean energy program resources to benefit disadvantaged and environmental justice communities. As directed by the CLCPA, today’s announcement advances approaches to ensure that the State’s renewable programs provide substantial benefits for disadvantaged communities, including LMI customers. The steps being taken through the NY-Sun Program will not only make accessing solar more affordable but markedly reduce fossil fuel-fired generation and air pollution in the state, including the downstate region where clean energy can provide significant health benefits to disadvantaged communities. In addition to the relaunch of this program, NYSERDA will offer expanded incentives to offset the cost of installing solar for LMI homeowners and affordable housing. Multifamily affordable housing also may now receive a higher incentive than previously designed as well as receive incentives for larger projects.
Climate Justice Working Group
The Climate Justice Working Group is comprised of representatives from Environmental Justice communities statewide, including three members from New York City communities, three members from rural communities, and three members from urban communities in upstate New York, as well as representatives from the State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Health, Labor, and NYSERDA. Working Group Members are:
Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Jerrod Bley, Clean Energy Program Director, Adirondack North Country Association
Dr. Donathan Brown, CEO & Co-Founder, Adirondack Diversity Solutions
Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director, PUSH Buffalo
Amy Klein, CEO, Capital Roots
Mary Beth McEwen, Interim Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida and Madison Counties
Abigail McHugh-Grifa, Executive Director, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition
Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director, UPROSE
New York State agency members are:
Rosa Mendez, Chair, Director of Environmental Justice, DEC
Neil Muscatiello, Director, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology, Center for Environmental Health, DOH
Joseph McNearney, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, DOL
Christopher Coll, Director of Energy Affordability and Equity Program, NYSERDA
The CLCPA requires the State to achieve a carbon free electricity system by 2040 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, setting a new standard for states and the nation to expedite the transition to a clean energy economy. The new law will drive investment in clean energy solutions such as wind, solar, energy efficiency and energy storage.