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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.Torchlight

Show Us The Application

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

February 06, 2012

On February 15 NYCEEC replies to the Sallan Torchlight download .pdf [127K].

What if someone was sitting on $37.5 million earmarked for improving the energy efficiency of buildings in New York City? If you were interested in project funding, where could you learn more about the program and how to go about applying? And, if this $37.5 million came from the federal stimulus program, what if Congressional Republicans launched hearings, issued subpoenas and hurled media thunderbolts to attack the President during an election year? Would there be another Solyndra-scale circus?

The New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC), a non-profit organization housed at the City Economic Development Corporation, just so happens to have $37.5 million in federal stimulus funds that it's eager to get out the door. In fact, it must commit the funds no later than spring 2013, or run the risk of having to return these taxpayer dollars to the federal government. As such, a visit to the NYCEEC website would seem to be a logical first step for a prospective program applicant — but wait, there is no website. Even a search on the City' government economic development site produces no results.

A Google search did turn up NYCEEC's seven-page Introduction to Entity and Mission, where it describes itself as a "public-private partnership created to further the greenhouse gas reduction plans of NYC by catalyzing energy efficiency investments across building types throughout the five boroughs". The "Introduction" also provides the names and affiliations of its board of directors, staff and advisors as well as a flow chart of how NYCEEC will "execute its mission". It does not offer any details on program specifics, applicant criteria or relevant deadlines.

Yet, accessing these funds can't be a total mystery because, in November 2011, Dallas-based Transcend Equity Development Corporation received support in the form of a loan guarantee from NYCEEC to undertake an energy retrofit of a seventeen-story office building in Lower Manhattan. While media reports were short on details of NYCEEC's first deal, it was rightly an occasion to celebrate.

Make no mistake, however, the challenge of energy makeovers for existing buildings is daunting and it's rooted in paradox:

"Over the past 20 to 30 years, every important building component has improved in energy performance. From air conditioners to lighting to windows, construction crews today have an array of green technologies at their disposal. Once they're put together, though, the finished building performs no better than its predecessors of two or three decades ago. The parts have gotten better, but not the whole." E&E Reporter,[i]

Let's turn to evidence now rolling in on the cash value of energy efficient buildings showing this paradox can be solved. A two-part report issued in January 2012, sponsored by the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation and the non-profit Living Cities, which studied nearly 19,000 affordable apartments in New York City, found replacing old equipment and other building retrofits could save hundreds of dollars per unit per year and that adds up to millions in savings in fuel and electricity for the 230 buildings in the sample.

In a similar vein, the Greenprint Foundation, a global alliance of real estate owners, investors, and financial institutions, determined that energy-related building measures can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In volume 2 of its annual Performance Report, based on indexing and benchmarking data submitted by 1,632 commercial, retail, industrial, multi-family and hotel properties, CO2 emission went down 0.7% in one year. This decrease is attributed to reduced energy consumption, which also decreased by 0.7%, and commitments to using renewable energy. These energy efficiency outcomes reflect performance in buildings from 44 countries; of the total sample, 15 properties were located in New York City, 91 in San Francisco and another 74 in Los Angeles. Since all the data in the study is self-reported, Greenprint has commissioned a third party verification that will be made publicly available this year. Perhaps due to the international nature of the Greenprint effort, the report contains no monetary data or analysis of implementation costs, energy savings or funding sources for participating properties. Still, taken together, Deutsche Bank's and Greenprint's accumulated evidence and analysis on energy efficient building activity makes the prospect of what NYCEEC's $37.5 million fund for energy efficiency makeovers at some of New York City's big, old buildings very exciting.

Another exciting prospect about NYCEEC is that it can fill the vacuum left by the demise of most PACE bond programs to fund residential energy efficiency upgrades. NYCEEC can also lead-by-example in developing smart and workable energy efficiency funding strategies that can inform, ease the way and encourage the inflow of private sector funds. But, without wide dissemination of its programmatic details and application procedures, prospects are dimmed. Now is the time for NYCEEC to get out detailed program information and thereby increase the level of local support and number of program defenders. While no one would claim that $37.5 million in New York City is a real estate game-changer, it is enough to show what can be done and attract more private capital and encourage more borrowing or other forms of financing by a wide-array of property owners.

Returning to the risks raised by rancorous election-year politics, it's worth recalling that this money comes from the federal stimulus program and the clock is ticking on how long it can sit idle before Washington tries to reclaim it. With 8.5% unemployment and other far-from-rosy local economic indicators, isn't it time to get the word out about NYCEEC, to get applicants knocking at the door and to put those checks on the mail? We know the time is now and surely, transparency is the best defense against politically motivated attacks along with having completed projects to point to with pride.

(updated below)

On February 15 the NYCEEC website launched.

(NYCEEC Replies)

On February 15 NYCEEC replies to the Sallan Torchlight download .pdf [127K].

[i] Rahim, Saqib. "Energy Efficiency: How Do You Overhaul the Way Buildings Use Energy? — 02/06/2012 —" E&E Publishing — The Premier Information Source for Professionals Who Track Environmental and Energy Policy. ClimateWire, 6 Feb. 2012. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. < >.

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