New York may be on the verge of becoming a world leader in energy efficiency.
Working late into the night, the State Senate passed the historic Green Jobs-Green New York bill yesterday after more than a year of hard work from the WFP and a broad coalition of environmentalists, businesses, community groups, labor unions and key Senators and members of the Assembly.
The bill - which had already passed the Assembly unanimously and is supported by the Governor - would make energy efficiency upgrades to one million homes and businesses across the state over the next five years and create tens of thousands of badly needed jobs.
Sen. Darrel Aubertine, the bill's lead Senate sponsor and champion said: "This program will create jobs, save consumers on their energy bills and help get our economy back on track. This bill encourages conservation, helps consumers with the cost of capital improvements to their homes and businesses, and creates jobs in the new economy. It's a win-win for New York State, especially Upstate New York where a well-trained workforce will be in demand to keep the heat in and energy bills down every winter."
The key innovation in the bill is a revolving capital fund, which would leverage private investment in energy efficiency to massively increase the use of existing technology. Here's how it would work: State certified contractors would perform free or low-cost energy audits for homeowners, looking for repairs and upgrades (like air sealing, insulation, new boilers) that can pay for themselves through the energy savings they create. The work would be paid for by the fund-homeowners pay it back out of a portion of their energy savings (they pocket the rest, in addition to getting their homes repaired).
Compare this to the current situation. A very knowledgeable homeowner has to proactively find a contractor they trust to perform an energy audit, pay for it themselves, and then pay the upfront costs of the repair.
For a cold state like New York with lots of older homes, the number of existing residential and commercial buildings that can be upgraded is huge - 1 in 7 existing homes could be reached . It's a great example of how market failure can be solved through progressive policy.
Sen. Thomas Morahan added, "About 40 percent of Rockland County's owner-occupied units were built before 1970, making them big energy users. This program would serve 'the missing middle' -- owners who surpass the income ceiling for the Weatherization Assistance Program but cannot afford retrofits on their own. Heating an energy-inefficient home may cost these owners between $3,000 and $4,000 per year."
The bill now heads to the Governor's desk.
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