This Is Even Bigger than New York’s $1 Billion Green Bank

Nov. 23, 2013
New York’s $1 billion Green Bank is getting all the buzz. But an obscure state bond program may boost energy efficiency even more and create a national model for other states to follow. Read more in this report from the Alliance to Save Energy’s 11th Great Energy Efficiency Day (GEED), held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 20.

New York’s $1 billion Green Bank is expected to give energy efficiency a big boost by using public funds to leverage private investment. But another, more obscure program could have an even greater impact. It is the state’s recently launched residential bond initiative.

Francis Murray, former head of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, described the bond program at the Alliance to Save Energy’s 11th Great Energy Efficiency Day (GEED), held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 20.

“It’s more modest in scale (than the Green Bank) but its potential is even greater,” he told the group of industry and government leaders who gathered to champion ASE’s goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030.

The bond program emerged from out-of-the-box thinking on New York’s part. The state made the argument that energy efficiency helps alleviate water pollution, and convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that efficiency qualifies for financing under the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  This allowed NYSERDA to take advantage of the strong credit rating of the New York State’s Environmental Facilities Corporation, a bond authority that finances environmental projects.

As a result, NYSERDA successfully raised $24.3 million through the water/efficiency bond issue for residential energy efficiency. The program offers loans at interest rates as low 0.02 percent, according to Murray.

Other states are expected to copy the model, opening the way for low-cost energy efficiency loans nationally. (For more details see August 10 article “Should We Finance Energy Efficiency as We Do Roads and Bridges?” 

The GEED event also highlighted other energy efficiency success stories from state and local officials nationwide and from such companies as Schneider Electric, Ingersoll Rand, Pacific Gas & Electric, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and Grundfos.

One story which may or may not be a success this year – we’ll know soon – is the Energy Savings & Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, aka the Shaheen-Portman bill.  The bipartisan bill, which supporters thought stood a good chance of passage earlier this year, stalled in the Senate in September after being barraged with amendments.

However, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), the bill’s key sponsors, both expressed confidence at GEED that the bill may still pass this year – although the clock is ticking.

The bill improves building codes, creates worker training programs,  boosts various industrial efficiency efforts, requires the federal government  improve its  energy saving efforts, promotes building benchmarking, offers programs to overcome the tenant/landlord split incentive problem, pushes school retrofits, and offers efficiency grants for non-profits.

What do you think New York’s new program will mean to residential energy efficiency? Join the conversation on our LinkedIn group.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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