Financing Green Buildings – August 18, 2004

August 18, 2004

with Dean Zias and Elizabeth Perry

(Scroll down for speaker bios.)
To get more details about specific programs, check out the links below, or download Elizabeth Perry’s powerpoint presentation here.

[Dean Zias on PICCED, NYSERDA, and energy-efficiency policies in New York State]

NYSERDA was founded in 1975 as a Public Benefit Organization (similar to a nonprofit) that concentrated on R & D and has only recently moved into the deployment of public programs. Its goal is to form a partnership between the public and private organizations, combining the “innovativeness of the private sector” with the “assurance of the public sector”.

1992: The Department of Energy and the EPA developed the EnergyStar logo that we’re all familiar with. It indicates an appliance that is least 30% more efficient than average.
1996: The Department of Energy created the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which funds such projects as Rebuild America, Clean Cities (which deals with mass transit—providing cleaner buses, etc.), and the Weatherization Assistance Program.
The Rebuild America project funds PICCED, whose goals are to identify community needs and match those needs with resources, technical assistance, and finances for energy reform. It has strategic partnerships with professional groups like the AIA and businesses like GE and other high-powered, private R & D organizations.
Environmentalism has come a long way from the advocacy movement of the 1960’s, when ‘green’ concerns were seen as opposition to business. In this century, it’s finally being acknowledged that economic and environmental concerns go hand in hand.

In the late 1990’s, Gov. Pataki deregulated the utility companies, separating suppliers and deliverers of energy and introducing market choice. The goal was the creations of a more competitive, innovative environment with more stable energy prices.
1998: The Systems Benefit Charge (SBC) was introduced by NYSERDA. A small percentage of the cost of every kw/hr goes into funding for research and development. Whenever this fund reaches $750 million, it will be put back into the energy services industry through investment and research. This fund, a partnership between ConEd and NYSERDA, is totally self-sustaining.

Environmental Disclosure, aka the “State’s Report Card”, is submitted at least twice a year by energy companies, by law. This reports emissions and sources of power used by the state.
Most New Yorkers don’t know that, as state residents, they have the right to choose the source of the power that they pay for. The majority of electricity supplied in New York State comes from coal, hydro-, and nuclear power, but ANY NEW YORK STATE RESIDENT can call up the utility company (it does not have to be ConEd) and request a particular type of power. This means that you, as the customer, determine the source of the electricity you use. This won’t affect your electricity availability or service (although the price may differ slightly) and it is open to any customer. For example, Brooklyn Brewery is run entirely on green power.
Because this is so little-known, there are green power resources in New York State that are going unused. There are windmills in central New York State that are standing idle because residents don’t know they can request wind power.
Prices are constantly fluctuating, but in general, energy sources differ from one another in amounts of fractions of a penny. For example, when Dean called ConEd to request the switch, he found that he would be paying 12.9 cents per kilowatt hour—only 0.6 cents more than his current rate.
Four sources of green power

  • solar
  • wind
  • biomass
  • hydropower


BUILDING ASSISTANCE: NYSERDA offers assistance in the design and building stages of a new building or help with an existing building. It can provide technical assistance and a design review to help architects and builders, or help complete a building analysis (complete with financial information) of an existing building. This way, the benefits of various energy-efficiency measures can be planned for and calculated precisely. NYSERDA also aids with product specifications.
FUNDING: NYSERDA can identify funding sources for potential customers and even offers cash incentives for going green.

[Elizabeth Perry on NYSERDA’S Green Building Funding Programs]

Elizabeth works in NYSERDA programs focusing on commercial and industrial buildings or multi-family housing (more than 4 families): Smart Big Choices Program, New Construction Program

The small percentage deducted from energy bills was once rebated to customers. Now it’s put into the SBC the money goes into research and development, developing energy efficiency standards and helping low-income areas.
The funding is completely first-come, first-serve. When the money runs out, it will be time for the SBC to replenish itself. The state may re-fund NYSERDA, or may decide to use the money elsewhere. If you have a green building project and think you may be eligible for NYSERDA funding, apply as soon as possible! Please note that you MUST be a ConEd customer, since that is the source of the funding. ConEd customers pay into, and benefit from, the SBC.

The Green Buildings program is designed to minimize the environmental and economic impacts of commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings in NYS. Its long term goal is to make green design standard practice in all buildings.

  • Integrated whole-building analysis—beginning early in the design process
  • Energy-efficiency
  • Whole-building energy modeling
    • Cost-shared technical assistance:
    • LEED certification
    • Executive Order #111 (geared towards state buildings only; the goal of this is to get all state buildings up to speed and showcase energy efficiency)
    • NYS Green Building Tax Credit
    • Commissioning

NEW CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM The goal of this is to get as much electricity off-grid as possible.
250,000 available per measure.
400,000 per project

Aimed towards the “Liberty Zone” below Canal to encourage development
Loan rate reduction of 4%
Lender/borrower fill out joint application
This can be combined with the green construction program.

Stay tuned for information about a possible followup forum on green lenders!


note: paraphrased, not an exact transcript

Q: it seems overwhelming for the average user to understand all the NYSERDA programs. Is there someone to walk people through this process?
ELIZABETH: You can talk to Dean if your project is residential (a 1-4 family building). If it’s larger than that, you can come to me or to Anthony, who is part of our engineering team, to do an outreach.
DEAN: There are a lot of intervention points in our more than 2 dozen programs. My role as outreach coordinator is to find out your needs and work with you.

Q: Who pays into SBC?
ELIZABETH: Every ConEd customer, residential or commercial. LIPA and NIPA customers are not eligible. Their programs are similar to ours but not as well-developed. I did a school in East New York that turned out to be on the NIPA grid and was ineligible. Most places are eligible. If you’re doing work on city buildings, most of them are on NIPA power, but there is other funding available for greening city buildings.

Q: If you’re using the Green Buildings Program, can you apply to other programs?
ELIZABETH: Yes, as long as the money doesn’t overlap to pay for the exact same product.

Q: Is there software available to crunch numbers on energy efficiency?
ELIZABETH:, which is linked from the NYSERDA website, has calculators. However these calculators won’t tell you the energy-efficiency of the building itself.
DEAN: is good—it won’t tell you energy benefits but it will help analyze energy usage based on the number of windows or other factors. You still need analysis from engineers. There are too many synergistic effects, like the way sealed windows lead to less need for boiler heat. This stuff can’t be easily measured by calculators.

Q: Is there any funding available for roof construction on a small private school?
ELIZABETH: The New Construction Program can be used even on an existing building, if the building is vacant for at least 30 days (like during summer vacation). There are ways to workaround for existing buildings. For example, we worked on a warehouse. We allowed them to move all their inventory to one side. We retrofit the lighting on the other side of the warehouse and then switched.

Q: Can you expand on the guidelines for commissioning?
ELIZABETH: If you’re in the New construction program and receiving more than 100k. After the work is finished, we’ll want items that we paid for to be commissioned. This is still a new concept.

Q: The Green Buildings Program ends this December, right?
ELIZABETH: New Construction will end in December. New applications will be issued next year, but funding is running out, so the new program will have the same name but different tax information.

Q: The SBC money runs through 2006. Does it run out or is it sustainable through our electricity bills?
ELIZABETH: At that date, the Public Service Commissioner will determine whether NYSERDA gets the money or whether someone else should. But the SBC will continue to be funded through ConEd.
DEAN: They reevaluate the money because the funding is meant to revitalize the market. It may go to someone else. These [green building] programs actually pay for themselves over time—the NYSERD funding is just meant to speed it up.

Q: When is the best time to involve NYSERDA in my building project?
ELIZABETH: As early as possible! We want to be able to suggest changes to design teams: new materials, adding daylighting. It might even involve structural changes, so the goal is to get involved at the schematic design phase, before working drawings are made.
DEAN: Green is in the design phase. By the time you get to construction it’s too late. The earlier, the better.

Q: Who is eligible for the loan program?
DEAN: The Loan program applies to every NYSERDA program ,not just energy efficiency. We’re doing a green roof in Long Island City that is using this funding.


Dean Zias has been an urban planner with the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) for 26 years working with community groups in many housing and commercial revitalization projects in low- and moderate-income areas in NYC. He has recently been selected as NYSERDA’s partner to co-coordinate, along with Doreen Tabras of SoBRO, The Energy$mart Communities Outreach Program in New York City, a program that provides resources, guidance, technical assistance, financing, and monotoring in energy conservation, efficiency, and development in New York.

Elizabeth Perry joined the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) with 20 years of experience as an energy consultant in the Northeast. She has worked on residential, commercial and industrial projects in the public and private sectors. Some of those projects include assisting in the selection of energy-efficiency measures at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal and the Fulton Fish Market, and acquiring funding for photovoltaics at Whitehall; overseeing the implementation of metering and billing services at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Staten Island Homeport; helping in the selection of a new refrigeration system for the Brooklyn Wholesale Meat Market; and working with various cultural institutions to help them acquire discount energy. In her current position at NYSERDA, she is working to distribute funding to commercial and industrial facilities that will support energy-efficiency and green-building projects in the New York City area.

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