New York rolls out initiative for carbon-neutral homes

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A new $30 million statewide initiative to build market capacity and demand for decarbonized homes and neighborhoods has been launched.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the initiative, called Building Better Homes – Emissions Free and Healthier Communities, will establish a network of builders and developers that are committed to building carbon-neutral single-family homes and neighborhoods. It also will provide training, and technical and marketing support.

“Single-family homes are too often overlooked as sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York and it’s crucial we work with both developers and homebuyers to reduce emissions,” Hochul said. “Through the Building Better Homes initiative and its incentives, we are not only ensuring homebuyers have greener options to choose from, but also that we continue to work with the building and development industries to pave the way towards a more sustainable future.”

Advancing carbon neutrality in the building sector will help New York achieve its goal—mandated by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act—of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030. More than 12,000 new homes are built across the state each year, and under CLCPA provisions, homes built with fossil fuel equipment and appliances will need to be retrofitted in the future.

The new initiative will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Under phase one, $5 million will be allocated to support builders and developers seeking training, technical assistance, marketing support, and funding to build carbon-free model homes.

Applications to become a program partner, with up to $250,000 available per partner, will be accepted through Dec. 31, 2023. Builders and developers that want to participate will be required to provide proof of New York construction experience. Acceptable proofs of experience are participation in NYSERDA’s New Construction Housing program within the last 12 months, or building permits or an executed contract with a home buyer dated within the last 12 months. (More details and an application form are available on NYSERDA’s website.)

NYSERDA plans to roll out the second phase of the program in mid-2022 with $10 million in funding as a design competition, similar to its Buildings of Excellence Competition that awards exemplary carbon-neutral multifamily building designs. A third phase, also set to launch in 2022, will build consumer demand by educating homebuyers on healthy and emissions free home construction.

For this initiative, NYSERDA is partnering with the New York State Builders Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to advance construction of carbon-neutral homes and promote their non-energy benefits—in particular, indoor air quality improvements associated with the absence of combustion appliances and the inclusion of balanced ventilation. Through the partnership with AAFA and its existing diversity, equity and inclusion programming, special focus will be placed on educating the builder network about the health benefits of carbon-neutral construction in disadvantaged communities, which traditionally have higher rates of asthma and allergy.

“State financial investment plays an important role in providing builders and homeowners a cost-effective way to invest in energy efficiency,” said Lewis Dubuque, executive vice president of the builders’ association.

The initiative is funded through NYSERDA’s $6 billion Clean Energy Fund.

Buildings are a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in New York. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, more than $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings across the state. In addition to the carbon benefits, these projects will help New York achieve its energy efficiency target to reduce on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes. 

New York’s investments to boost clean energy also include more than $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission projects, $1.8 billion to scale up solar energy, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, the Hochul administration says, these investments currently are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector.

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.

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