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Hochul: $100 million in Environmental Bond Act funding now available for Clean Green Schools


Wed, Jan 24th 2024 03:40 pm

Funding supports under-resourced public pre-K-12 schools’ efforts to reduce emissions, improve environmental sustainability and decarbonize school buildings

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $100 million is now available through the Clean Green Schools Initiative under the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.

Her team said, “The initiative will allow for the advancement of construction projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help public schools improve environmental sustainability and decarbonize school buildings. Today’s announcement supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050 and ensure at least 35%, with a goal of 40%, of the benefits from clean energy investments be directed to disadvantaged communities.”

Hochul said, “Creating a safe and healthy learning environment is critical to providing our children the best education possible. These investments will make our school facilities cleaner and more sustainable – and will have a tremendous positive effect on future generations of students.”

The governor’s team added, “As climate change increases the number of high-heat days, schools are struggling to keep cool due to outdated infrastructure in dire need of repairs or upgrades to clean energy technologies. To help address this, Gov. Hochul announced in this year’s State of the State that New York will expand funding for cooling capacity for schools while they decarbonize through the Clean Green Schools program.

“Currently, this program serves under-resourced public schools and helps them become sustainable, resilient and healthy learning environments in their community by upgrading to clean energy technologies to mitigate indoor air quality from pollution and wildfires. This investment will also protect against extreme heat by prioritizing funding for efficient cooling systems in schools serving vulnerable populations.

“The state will encourage communities that receive this funding to install cooling systems that can be opened to the community during extreme heat events to help prevent heat-related illness or death.

This initiative is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The competitive application process launched for the Clean Green Schools Initiative, and all public school districts across New York are eligible to apply if they are designated as high-needs by the New York State Education Department or located in a disadvantaged community as defined by the New York State Climate Justice Working Group. Incentive amounts start at $500,000 for qualifying projects leading to improved air quality, increased resiliency, and a pathway toward electrification. Proposals are due by 3 p.m. June 6.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “The time to address the significant impacts of climate change on our schools is now, especially in communities that have traditionally been underserved. The Clean Green Schools Initiative will provide students and educators in these districts with access to healthier learning and teaching environments while helping them to realize the benefits of more sustainable, climate-friendly school buildings.”

NYSERDA will host a webinar at noon Feb. 7 (register here) for schools to learn more about the types of eligible projects, including how they will be evaluated. For continued Clean Green Schools Initiative updates, join NYSERDA’s mailing list here.

The $100 million in funding for public schools through the Clean Green Schools Initiative is part of $400 million set aside for green building projects under the Environmental Bond Act and expands NYSERDA’s Clean Green Schools Initiative originally announced by Hochul in April 2022. The draft Clean Green Schools Initiative eligibility criteria were open for public comment from Nov. 8-Dec. 8, 2023. This announcement follows bond act public engagement processes, which included a project idea survey and a statewide listening tour, which served to identify funding needs and develop program guidelines for bond act implementation.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “I applaud Gov. Hochul’s sustained investment in Clean Green Schools and look forward to working with DEC’s partners to support this and other green initiatives backed by the Environmental Bond Act. The availability of this funding will support the historic energy transformation in our schools as we strive to meet New York’s climate mandates and promote health and wellbeing, particularly in areas most susceptible to the effects of harmful greenhouse gas pollution.”

Public Service Commission Chair Rory M. Christian said, “By upgrading to clean energy technologies, these schools will become sustainable, resilient, and healthy learning environments in their community. This initiative, led by Gov. Hochul, will also help reduce air pollution, which is especially important for our students and communities across New York state.”

New York State Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The Clean Green Schools Initiative will have far-reaching sustainable impacts on today’s students and future generations. This initiative allows schools to become environmentally sustainable by reducing energy loads, decarbonizing their buildings, improving indoor air quality, and implementing clean energy alternatives. We applaud Gov. Hochul for spearheading this crucial initiative and look forward to working with our partners to create clean, sustainable, and healthy school environments for all New York state students.”

This announcement builds on the $14 million in awards from Hochul in October through the Clean Green Schools initiative to 11 under-resourced public school districts to modernize their buildings, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the school's reliance on fossil fuels, and improve the indoor air quality by installing ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and electric kitchen equipment. To date, 1,500 under-resourced schools across 85 districts in 35 counties in New York are receiving technical assistance to assess indoor air quality, energy reduction, electrification and decarbonization projects.

Additionally, NYSERDA provides technical assistance to schools through the Flexible Technical Assistance Program, which can help schools identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce energy costs and incorporate clean energy into their capital planning.

Hochul’s team stated, “Buildings are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York state. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and advancing statewide installations of onsite storage, renewables, and electric vehicle charging equipment, the state will reduce its carbon pollution and achieve the state's ambitious target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes.”

In addition to bond act funding, the Clean Green Schools Initiative is funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the state's 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund, which is authorized by the New York State Public Service Commission. More information about this funding is available on NYSERDA’s website.

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