It’s going to cost New York state a bundle to help homes and commercial buildings meet the CLCPA — at least a billion dollars a year for at least a decade just for low- to moderate-income households.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority recently received recommendations from committees formed by the Climate Action Team to help the state reach goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The Energy Efficiency and Housing Committee delivered a 54-page report to NYSERDA with recommendations to drive energy efficiency in appliances and convert homes and businesses from natural gas or other environmentally unfriendly methods to electricity.
“I know that many eyes are on us as we move forward with this initiative as we put nation-leading best practices and processes into place,” said Ruthann Visnauskas, state commissioner of homes and community renewal. “In common with the other panels what we’re talking about here really is making fundamental changes to the state’s building sector — our residential, our commercial, our institutional buildings. And while these changes will feel huge and gravitational they really are required to change the way that we all make choices, the way that we do business and the way we can deliver on our promise to reduce our emissions.”
Residential properties drive more emissions than do commercial buildings, and natural gas is the biggest source of emissions, according to the working group. Heating is the biggest use of natural gas, followed by hot water heating and cooking. Visnauskas said the work will go beyond simple replacing appliances. On-site renewables like rooftop solar panels, high-performance windows, walls, insulation and on-site energy storage will be part of the state’s work over the next 10 years.
By 2040, all buildings in New York state are to have emission-free electricity powering cooking, heating and hot-water systems. There are 6.2 million buildings in the state — 4.9 million single family homes, 250,000 multifamily buildings and 370,000 commercial and institutional buildings. The committee is recommending the adoption of a new state energy code as soon as possible to guide construction of new homes and commercial buildings. That would be followed by amending the state codes by 2023 to require solar technology where feasible, grid-interactive electrical appliances, energy storage readiness, electric readiness for all appliances and electric-vehicle readiness where parking is already provided. By 2025, state codes for new construction would require all-electric homes, with a 2030 proposed deadline for all-electric construction of multifamily and commercial buildings.
“I want to make it clear that what the panel is proposing here is a statewide mandatory code that raises the bar,” said Janet Joseph, NYSERDA senior vice president for strategy and market development. “Now this no doubt will take a committed public to support these legislative regulatory and programmatic changes. While these changes may not be easy it was a consensus of the panel that without these clear regulatory signals in addition to market enabling supports we will not achieve our critical greenhouse gas goals. From a cost perspective this regulatory strategy will drive the scale and the certainty that’s needed to transform the market, to facilitate investment and to reduce cost.”
One of the biggest tasks the state faces in meeting the CLCPA is converting buildings to heating and cooling systems to electricity or heat pumps. The state budget currently spends about $250 million for energy efficiency programs that serve low- to moderate-income households, and committee members see the need to spend at least $1 billion a year. That money is to come, in part, from the federal government given the Biden Administration’s interest in “advancing the climate agenda and investing in infrastructure.”
Committee members are advocating for direct cash incentives for electrical service upgrades and in-building wiring and equipment as the creation of a Retrofit and Electrification Readiness Fund.
The clock is likely ticking on gas clothes dryers and heating furnaces. By 2026, a state Climate Action Council committee wants to see the state adopt an all-electric code for new construction, additions and alterations for single-family homes — which means the state would prohibit the use of natural gas or oil for hot water heaters, cooking stoves and appliances. The same restriction could be in place by 2030 for multifamily homes and commercial buildings. The council’s Energy Efficiency and Housing Committee also wants to see zero emissions standards on gas stoves and clothes dryers by 2035.
Another recommendation is to phase out incentives and rebates for fossil gas equipment currently offered by utilities or NYSERDA and to stop utilities from advertising natural gas as clean, natural or climate friendly. Discussion of a public awareness and consumer education plan includes using local elected officials, social media influences and sponsored content in television and film productions to counteract what committee members term a “partisan polarization in news and information sources” and low awareness off the CLCPA.
“We need a broad-based public education campaign to catalyze the market and demand for low-carbon solutions,” Visnauskas said. “It’s essential that we create a sense of shared responsibility because we want consumers to start to think about what kind of stove do they want, we want then to seek out heat pumps — we have to spur this type of behavior with repeated and trusted messages, with data, with testimonials and with local engagement.”
By 2023, buildings owners of buildings more than 10,000 square feet would have to file a report of whole energy and water use yo NYSERDA each year. By 2025, building owners would have to publicly disclose prior-year energy consumption of a building, unit or space as part of a sale or lease listing. By 2027 single family property owners would have to obtain and disclose a Home Energy Rating System before selling a property. In 2025, all building owners of properties that are bigger than 25,000 square feet will have to do a comprehensive building energy assessment at least once a decade that evaluates the building’s systems, identifies ways to invest in energy efficient upgrades, electrician or electrification readiness for building systems.
“The scale of the problem also requires a large solution,” Visnauskas said. “The scale of the effort is quite daunting. … About 70% of the buildings were constructed before the energy code. So they weren’t really designed to be energy efficient and these buildings are really going to need both investment and upgrading. But the opportunity here is to upgrade the quality of our existing housing and also to see new residential and commercial buildings constructed to new standards. It’s going to require new resources. It’s going to require new legislation and we need to do this work through the lens of equity. We want to make sure we focus on aiding the transition for all communities in our state particularly those that are traditionally underserved.”