Donna DeCostanzo, Director, Northeast Energy and Sustainable Communities, New York
Living in cities is one of the most environmentally friendly things we can do – their more compact design allows residents to drive less and live and work in smaller, denser spaces, thus consuming fewer resources and generating fewer carbon emissions on a per capita basis. It is therefore critical that we ensure cities are attractive places to live, while we also improve their environmental footprint. Attracting innovative and growing businesses to New York’s cities, the workers they employ, and the young people that are increasingly opting to live in urban areas requires a bold vision that includes more clean energy opportunities and the creation of green, resilient neighborhoods and infrastructure.
Governor Cuomo’s recently announced 2015 Opportunity Agenda provides that bold vision with its commitment to empowering New York’s cities through support for municipal clean energy initiatives. The efforts outlined in the address are not only critical to ensuring that New York State achieves its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, but will also drive significant local job growth while generating a number of other important benefits, including cost savings for municipalities and their residents and businesses, improved air quality and public health, and enhanced sustainability and quality-of-life.
As detailed in the Governor’s address, the State is about to embark on an ambitious program to expand the Five Cities Energy Plan initiative, while also establishing the “New York State Community Partnership” program that will help additional municipalities. Through the Five Cities Energy Plan process, an extension of the BuildSmartNY program to reduce energy use in State buildings 20% by 2020, the State’s five largest cities after New York City — Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers — developed Energy Plans over the course of the past year in collaboration with the New York Power Authority (NYPA). These Plans — which are expected to save as much as $400 million each year — aim to reduce energy consumption and increase clean energy generation in the participating municipalities, through the establishment of goals and specific measures in four principal areas:
- energy planning and coordination,
- energy distribution and supply,
- energy efficiency in buildings, and
- transportation efficiency.
In the next phase of the program, the State will help the cities implement their plans and achieve their energy goals by ratcheting up its support for the five cities, providing funding and central support for Plan implementation. Through an innovative “Race to the Top” competition, NYPA will provide up to $20 million to those cities with the most advanced and cutting-edge clean energy initiatives. The State will also provide funding through 2020 for “City Energy Managers” in each city that will oversee Plan implementation, share best practices among the cities, and provide funding to ensure the Plan initiatives are carried out. NYPA will also create an ombudsman to provide a central point of contact for the cities and an easy way to navigate through relevant State agencies and programs.
The State’s newly launched New York State Community Partnership program, led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and NYPA, will build upon the Five Cities model to reach additional communities in New York — from Long Island to Lake Erie, and places in between. Through this exciting initiative, the State will empower communities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and spur economic development through a multi-pronged effort to increase energy capacity through “technical support, policy expertise, and enabling tools and resources to allow [cities] to address their energy needs.”
Governor Cuomo is leading the way, demonstrating the importance of empowering clean energy action at the local level and how best to optimize limited resources and work in partnership with municipalities. New York will serve as an important model for other states on how to achieve our climate goals, while also seizing the economic development opportunities needed to revitalize our cities across the country. We look forward to working with New York State to help ensure these groundbreaking efforts are a tremendous success.
Photo Credit: Governor Cuomo and New York Energy Policy/shutterstock