Assemblywoman Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn) and the Assembly passed legislation
authorizing municipalities to establish municipal sustainable energy loan programs in order to finance energy-efficiency improvements to residential, commercial, industrial and public buildings using federal funds (A.40004-A). The federal Department of Energy recently made approximately $454 million in Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funds available nationally, which New York State and New York State municipalities engaging in these projects under this legislation can apply for.
Assemblywoman Barron said the bill would authorize a municipality to adopt a local law establishing their own energy-efficiency loan program — which would use the federal funding to offer low-interest loans to property owners for installing energy-efficient improvements and renewable systems.
“Many homeowners and business owners would jump at the chance to reduce their carbon footprint and help promote greener, more eco-friendly operations, but making those improvements can be very costly,” Assemblywoman Barron said. “This program provides a valuable incentive and helps offset the immediate costs by creating a loan system that allows for payments to be made on your property tax bills over time.”
Assemblywoman Barron said improvements could include basic measures like window and door replacement, caulking, weather-stripping, air-sealing, insulation and heating and cooling upgrades, as well as the installation of renewable energy systems — larger projects that will make an even bigger impact. These include energy-generating systems like solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, anaerobic digester gas-to-electricity systems, and fuel cell technologies.
“By partnering with the federal government and local communities, we can help the state move toward achieving its goal to drastically reduce electricity use by 2015,” Assemblywoman Barron said. “This legislation will help lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make energy-efficiency improvements more affordable for those businesses and families who are already struggling in this economic downturn.”
Assemblywoman Barron said in order to receive a loan, the property would be required to undergo an energy audit or feasibility study by a certified contractor. Municipalities would be required to verify and report on the installation and performance of the improvements and systems.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) would oversee the loan program by establishing cost-effective criteria for energy-efficiency improvements, establishing criteria for certifying contractors that perform efficiency audits and feasibility studies — as well as providing for and establishing installation and performance reporting requirements.
Assemblywoman Barron said the Assembly has also directed NYSERDA, as part of the “green jobs, green New York” program, to include more provisions in its comprehensive home-assessment program which establishes a sliding scale for payment of audit fees for residential projects. The audit fees may be fully waived for income-qualified homeowners. If a business or residence chooses to participate in the energy-efficiency project or retrofit, any applicable audit costs may be capitalized in the repayment of the retrofit costs.
The “green jobs, green New York” program was signed into law (Ch. 487 of 2009), directs up to $4 million to establish green jobs training programs throughout the state, and requires NYSERDA and the state Labor Department to develop additional sources of job-training funds.
Since severe weather and a poor economy pose serious risks to working families and the elderly during the winter, the Authority also offers help with the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), a federally funded program that issues financial assistance to help with a household’s heating cost. Assistance and incentives are also available for families and individuals looking to weatherize their homes and businesses, according to Assemblywoman Barron..
For further information about HEAP, including how to apply, please call the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s (OTDA) toll-free hotline at (800) 342-3009, or visit the OTDA Web site at www.otda.state.ny.us/main/heap/. To find out if you are eligible for HEAP assistance, visit www.myBenefits.ny.gov.
“These programs will help revive New York’s struggling economy by encouraging investment in these energy-efficiency improvements, and will also help protect our environment,” Assemblywoman Barron said. “Promoting green energy doesn’t have to mean paying through the nose for costly improvements. It’s time for New York to become more energy and cost efficient, and this takes a huge step by incorporating municipalities across our state and making crucial federal funds available.”