New Program For Financing Energy Efficiency in Homes and Promoting Environmental Justice

The Power NY Act of 2011, which passed on June 22, 2011, will allow tens-of-thousands of low and middle income New Yorkers to retrofit their homes and businesses with energy efficiency technology or features through on-bill recovery. On-bill recovery is the process in which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) lends homeowners small loans and homeowners repays the loans back over time on their utility bills. On-bill recovery presents little risk for the low and middle income residents who cannot afford the usual large upfront cost of retrofitting their homes.

The legislation will not only make home retrofits affordable, but also generate construction jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. The Home Performance Resource Center estimates that the efficiency program, Green Job/Green NY, complemented by on-bill recovery, will create approximately 8,584 direct contractor jobs.

The Power NY Act also reauthorizes and modernizes Article X of the Public Service Law, which had previously expired at the end of 2002. Article X “streamlines the permitting process for power plants greater than 25 megawatts” by creating the New York Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to make siting decisions and expedite the power plant approval process. Two local residents are required to be part of the Board for each proceeding in order to incorporate local input. Any energy technology, including renewable energy sources, can apply under Article X.

In addition, the act spells victory for proponents of environmental justice by requiring a cumulative impact analysis of a community’s total environmental load before siting. According to New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA) Executive Director Eddie Bautista, “if a community is found to be disproportionately burdened, power plant applicants will have to commit to local, verifiable offsets of any projected pollution emissions before the power plant can be sited”.

Jenny Cheng, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Climate and Coalition Building Intern

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