NYPA joins state’s Climate Smart Communities program

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has joined the state’s Climate Smart Communities program as a sponsor.

The Climate Smart Communities program is an interagency initiative to encourage and assist local governments in taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

“It is another avenue for communities throughout New York State to access NYPA’s complete suite of energy solution programs,” NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele, said.

NYPA offers a wide array of energy solutions, including design-build project services, digital energy management, and demand response capabilities. “The ultimate goal is curbing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” DeMichele, said.  

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires New York State to achieve a carbon dioxide free electricity system by 2040 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% below 1990 levels by 2050.

“For decades, the Power Authority has been partnering with state and local governments through the implementation of energy efficiency technology and other measures to curb emissions and reduce the state’s carbon footprint,” Gil Quiniones, NYPA’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “NYPA is now taking another step in the fight against climate change as a proud member of the Climate Smart Communities program.”

The other state agencies sponsoring the Climate Smart Communities program are the Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Energy Research and Development Authority, the Department of Public Service, the Department of State; the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Health. The Department of Environmental Conservation is the main administrator of the program.

The Climate Smart Communities program began in 2009 with the original focus of encouraging local governments to commit to act on climate change by passing a resolution containing a 10-point pledge.

The pledge points are build a climate-smart community; inventory emissions, set goals, and plan for climate action; decrease energy use; shift to clean, renewable energy; implement climate-smart land use; enhance community resilience to climate change; support a green innovation economy; inform and inspire the public, and engage in an evolving process of climate action.

In 2014, the Climate Smart Communities program announced the next step in its evolution, a certification program. In order to be designated a Certified Climate Smart Community, a municipality must go beyond the CSC Pledge by completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level.

Meanwhile, the Climate Smart Communities website, unveiled in 2018, provides information on over 100 climate mitigation and adaptation actions and serves as a way for local New York governments to apply for certification. The website also serves as a portal for local governments to upload documentation and to communicate with program officials who review documentation and track progress.

To date, 291 communities across New York State have joined the Climate Smart Communities program.

Among the example of programs that NYPA has available for Climate Smart Community participants, as well as others, are energy efficiency initiatives that could, for example, provide upfront financing and implementation for a municipality to replace an aging boiler with a more efficient, modern boiler.

NYPA would provide the financing for the project and be paid back as the municipality realizes cost savings from the switch.

In another example, NYPA is helping communities switch to more efficient LED street lights as part of the state’s goal to have 500,000 LED street lamps installed by 2025.

NYPA has already worked with many large municipalities and is now working with smaller communities, sometimes forming them into groups to gain economies of scale.

“We have changed—or are in the process of changing—more than 65,000 streetlights throughout New York State so far and the program is ramping up exponentially,” DeMichele said. “It is a win-win.” Municipalities spend less on energy bills, GHG emissions are reduced and the streets are safer, he said.