Energy Efficiency

N.Y. continues efficiency push with funds for municipality streetlight conversion

As part of New York state's efforts to boost energy efficiency, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Oct. 19 said that $790,000 would be made available for cities, towns and villages in the state's Mid-Hudson Region through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to convert streetlights to LEDs.

Meanwhile, state utility regulators recently clarified the steps municipalities interested in purchasing street lighting systems from their local utility need to take.

The funding and PSC moves both tie into Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision initiative that, among other things, calls for a push to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York's communities.

The funding initiative unveiled by Cuomo on Oct. 19 is projected to reduce each participating municipality's electricity costs by up to 65 percent, which could result in more than $6 million in energy savings.

The Mid-Hudson Street Light Consortium will administer the initiative and is the first such consortium in the state to assist municipalities with LED street light conversion.

Assistance in understanding LED conversion options is available to all 249 municipalities in Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Columbia, Greene and Westchester counties, regardless of whether the municipality or the utility owns the lights.

Cuomo's office said that municipalities can join the consortium at no cost and will receive access to services including: (1) analysis and options for LED conversion; (2) procurement support, including sample request for proposals and inter-municipal agreements that can support shared purchasing, installation and maintenance; (3) support with negotiations with utilities for buyouts of existing lighting facilities; (4) technical assistance; and (5) continuous knowledge-sharing through webinars and workshops.

By reducing the overall amount of electricity the state consumes, the project advances Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and the state's recently enacted clean energy standard, a mandate that 50 percent of New York state's electricity come from renewable energy resources by 2030.

Cuomo's office said that under REV, New York state is putting renewed emphasis on harnessing the capabilities of local governments to motivate their communities and accelerate local energy-saving and renewable energy projects.

Once the first 20 municipalities take advantage of the program and convert to LED street lighting, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be reduced by more than 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next 15 years, equivalent to removing 8,840 cars off the road over this span, according to a press release issued by Cuomo's office.

NYSERDA's support for the project comes from the governor's "Cleaner, Greener Communities" initiative, which encourages communities to incorporate sustainability goals and principles into local decision-making and then form partnerships to transform these goals into economic development projects.

Cuomo in late 2015 amended the state's Public Service Law by adding a new section that establishes procedures for the transfer of ownership of complete street lighting systems to municipalities or other government entities.

A 2014 NYSERDA study, Street Lighting in New York State: Opportunities and Challenges, found that if street lights statewide were changed to LEDs, an estimated $97 million and 524 gigawatt-hours of electricity would be saved annually.

PSC approves procedures for municipalities to buy street lights

Meanwhile, the New York State Public Service Commission on Oct. 13 approved procedures clarifying the steps necessary for municipalities interested in purchasing street lighting systems from their local utility.

The PSC said the move was part of Cuomo's REV efforts to increase energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions in New York's communities.

PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said that Cuomo is a strong advocate of the need for municipal government efficiency and greater local control over energy use.

"To help in that effort, the commission encourages municipalities to consider the benefits associated with installing energy-efficient street lighting. Owning the street lights provides municipalities with options to reach local environmental and efficiency objectives," she said in a PSC news release.

The PSC said that approximately one million municipal streetlights across the state could be converted to higher efficiency lights. This number includes both utility- and customer-owned streetlights.