Memorandum of Understanding Establishes Strategic Partnership Between New York State and Danish Business Community with Primary Focus on State’s $50 Million Empire Building Challenge

May 20, 2021

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), Denmark’s largest private business and employers’ organization, today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) designed to enhance collaboration on decarbonizing high-rise buildings in New York State. Focusing primarily on NYSERDA’s $50 million Empire Building Challenge, which is expected to leverage over $250 million in private investment in building upgrades, testing, and technology, this agreement recognizes a shared commitment to carbon-neutral buildings and will accelerate New York’s progress toward Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Doreen M. Harris, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “This MOU is another major step forward in our unwavering commitment to decarbonize New York’s buildings and bring scalable energy efficiency and electrification solutions forward in support of our clean energy goals. Our expanding collaboration with the Confederation of Danish Industry will help New York State remain at the forefront of the battle against climate change and, through shared learning, ensure New York and Danish building owners and tenants alike have opportunity to benefit from cleaner, more comfortable living and business spaces.”

Lars Sandahl Sørensen, Chief Executive Officer, Confederation of Danish Industry, said, “ NYSERDA, the Confederation of Danish Industry and Danish Cleantech Hub in New York have enjoyed a long standing collaboration and we are very excited to venture on a new large scale project that will transform New York into a more sustainable city. For decades, Danish companies have developed energy efficiency in buildings and we know, that with today’s technologies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption by at least 50 percent. The new agreement commits us to work together more closely towards a common goal of accelerating the green transition and I am confident that through our joint efforts we will be able to achieve more and continue to develop even stronger relationships between New York and Denmark.”

Under the agreement, the strategic partnership will support knowledge sharing and investment from Denmark to New York and strengthens NYSERDA’s ability to learn from Denmark’s robust industry of building decarbonization solutions providers, represented by DI, while promoting greater bilateral cooperation between the two entities.

This MOU focuses on the complex challenges of completing energy efficiency and electrification upgrades in high-rise buildings, a key area of the buildings sector that is being addressed through NYSERDA’s Empire Building Challenge. Launched in September 2020, the Empire Buildings Challenge program is designed to showcase best practices that can be replicated in contexts facings similar challenges and issues through pilot projects and demonstrations of technical solutions. Through Empire Buildings Challenge, NYSERDA is establishing partnerships with leading commercial and multifamily real estate portfolio owners and occupants with buildings located in New York State that make a commitment to bringing one or more buildings in their portfolio to carbon neutrality by 2035.

NYSERDA and Confederation of Danish Industry will collaborate on the following key priorities:

  • Identifying concrete solutions and knowledge sharing to support the transition to more energy efficient buildings in New York;
  • Mobilizing Denmark’s strong clean technology network and encouraging transatlantic knowledge sharing; and
  • Providing a forum for exchange on new approaches and solutions within energy efficiency, climate adaptation and resiliency to foster best practice sharing.

High-rise buildings, particularly in New York City, face unique challenges when it comes to implementing carbon emissions reduction measures. These challenges can range from tenant disruption, upfront costs for renovations, and the sheer size and scale of high-rise buildings. The Empire Building Challenge seeks to address these and other market barriers by addressing crucial clean energy innovation gaps, through collaboration with the private sector, to decarbonize high-rise buildings and provide a blueprint so successful strategies can be implemented across many more buildings.

Strict building codes, energy labeling, and an innovative retrofit industry have made Denmark a world leader in energy efficiency. The major investments made over three decades, and especially the very great effort that followed the oil crisis in 1979, have helped to develop skills and establish a large number of Danish companies in energy efficiency. With Denmark’s ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, increased international collaboration and knowledge exchange is needed to accelerate deep energy efficiency retrofits world-wide and help attain collective climate goals.

Buildings are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, and integrating energy efficiency and electrification measures in existing buildings will reduce carbon pollution and help achieve more sustainable, healthy, and comfortable buildings. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings across the State. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and including onsite storage, renewables, and electric vehicle charging equipment, the State will reduce carbon pollution and achieve the ambitious target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes. Energy efficiency accounts for 75 percent of the clean energy jobs across New York, and the state's ambitious plan to reduce carbon pollution will result in an additional $1.8 billion in societal and environmental benefits.

Building owners, solution providers, manufacturers and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to visit for additional details on the Empire Building Challenge and to learn how to partner with NYSERDA, reduce carbon emissions, and get involved in the clean energy economy.

Today’s announcement represents a long-standing and productive relationship between New York and Denmark in the advancement of clean energy as an economic driver and critical solution in the global fight against climate change. In September 2019, Governor Cuomo announced an agreement between NYSERDA and the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate to share expertise and knowledge for developing innovative solutions for the development of offshore wind energy, recognizing the shared common interest in advancing this renewable resource as a clean and sustainable energy source.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

Governor Cuomo's nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York's unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including over $4 billion invested in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while meeting a goal to deliver 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities and advancing progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtus