A new round of funding for clean energy efforts

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New York hopes $17 million in funding will prompt more communities to take bold steps to fight climate change. The funds under the state’s Clean Energy Communities program are expected to encourage further investments in clean energy. 

The program’s new Leadership Round increases the options a community can choose from to lower its carbon footprint and recognizes leadership through a point rewards system. The initiative provides access to additional grant opportunities for actions taken and supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s climate agenda, which includes a goal to direct 40 percent of the benefits from clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities.

“Our partners in local government play a key role in helping New York fight climate change and embrace clean energy and the availability of this funding gives them the opportunity to lead by example by setting the bar high,” Cuomo says. “Not only does this program play a crucial role in helping us achieve the goals of our groundbreaking climate agenda, but it also ensures that disadvantaged communities have the opportunity they need to fight climate change and utilize clean energy as well.”

Cuomo, who has been working to position New York as a clean energy leader, would like the state to continue building a green economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. New York aims to reach zero-emissions electricity by 2040, with 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030. The Clean Energy Communities program feeds into this agenda.

The Clean Energy Communities Leadership Round will be administered by the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority. It urges cities, towns, villages and counties to join more than 300 local governments that have earned the Clean Energy Community designation. In the Finger Lakes region, 33 communities have earned the designation.

To earn the status, a community needs to complete four high-impact clean energy actions that include energy upgrades, a unified solar permit, community choice aggregation and community campaigns for qualifying clean energy initiatives. Participants in a community campaign are required to ascertain partners, volunteers, officials, and formal roles and responsibilities to achieve a clean energy initiative.

A community also could attempt to adopt a statewide model building code—NYStretch Energy Code—to meet energy and climate goals while ramping up energy cost savings, lowering building emissions and utility bills. 

“This program, and the additional incentives offered, especially for disadvantaged communities, empowers local governments to take an even greater role in driving action on behalf of their residents,” says Doreen Harris, acting president and CEO of NYSERDA.

Since its inception in 2016, more than 600 communities—roughly 91 percent of the state’s population—and the Economic Development Council regions have completed 1,700 high-impact actions.

Local governments can apply for grants through NYSERDA’s online portal on a rolling basis, until Dec. 31, 2025, or until funds are exhausted. 

Available grants include:

A $5,000 Clean Energy Communities grant for communities that complete at least four NYSERDA-identified high-impact actions.

■ An action grant of up to $50,000 for adopting the NYStretch Code and up to $60,000 for undertaking one or more clean energy Community Campaigns.

■ Disadvantaged communities that are awarded more than $20,000 for a clean energy project can qualify for an additional $10,000 to further the project.

■ Point-based grants where communities earn points for each clean energy action completed. At certain thresholds, these communities will become eligible for larger amounts. 

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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