Gov introduces $16M ‘Clean Communities’ fund

Andrew CuomoTransit cop: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law that stops local IDAs from including tax revenues earmarked for transit programs in their incentives packages.

A new state initiative will pour millions into local governments looking to reduce energy consumption and promote community-based clean-energy projects.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the launch of Clean Energy Communities, through which local municipalities can apply for technical assistance – and a slice of $16 million in funding – as they attempt to implement renewable, energy-efficient projects and foster regional sustainable-development initiatives.

Funding comes from the Clean Energy Fund, the 10-year, $5.3 billion spine of Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision strategy, which aims to reduce energy rates, drive economic development and accelerate clean-energy innovation. According to the state’s newly adopted Clean Energy Standard, 50 percent of New York’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030.

The Clean Energy Communities program is also partially funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first national program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions many scientists believe responsible for global climate change.

The New York State Research and Development Authority will accept Clean Energy Communities funding applications on a rolling basis through Sept. 30, 2019, or until the $16 million is exhausted, according to the governor’s office. The funds will supplement the local programs “at the heart” of state and national clean-energy efforts, according to Cuomo.

“New York is a leader in the fight against climate change and the development of a green economy,” the governor said Wednesday. “This initiative encourages alternatives that will save money and create new opportunities for municipalities, and is one more step toward building a cleaner and more sustainable New York.”

To qualify for individual grants of up to $250,000, cities, counties, towns and villages must earn a Clean Energy Community designation by completing at least four of 10 “high-impact action items” identified by NYSERDA, including new energy-usage reporting standards, installation of LED streetlights, utilization of electric-powered or other alternative-fuel “clean fleets” and other energy-efficiency protocols.

In addition to financial support, municipal leaders looking to streamline their own energy-usage protocols or promote sustainable practices among regional commercial and nonprofit organizations can also contact local “outreach and implementation coordinators,” who will provide “free, on-demand technical assistance,” according to NYSERDA.

By motivating municipal-level sustainability projects, including new solar- and wind-power initiatives, NYSERDA is “empowering municipal and community leaders to take control of their clean-energy future,” according to state Energy and Finance Chairman Richard Kauffman.

Municipalities that do meet Clean Energy Community standards and claim stipends and technical assistance through the new program “will stand as role models for communities across the state and country,” added NYSERDA President and CEO John Rhodes.

“Clean Energy Communities will demonstrate that local governments can provide effective leadership in helping their communities reduce energy use and protect the environment,” Rhodes said in a statement.