Energy to Lead Competition Recognizes Comprehensive, Cost-Effective Campus Projects That Advance Building Decarbonization

June 8, 2021

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced over $5 million in awards to four colleges and universities to help them achieve deep energy savings and combat climate change under the Energy to Lead Competition. The City College of New York Building Performance Lab, New York Medical College, Syracuse University, and Vassar College will receive more than $1 million each to develop comprehensive and cost-effective projects that advance building decarbonization while incorporating student input and community engagement, including two projects that will implement net zero energy performance in retrofit and new construction applications. This announcement supports Governor Cuomo's nation-leading climate and clean energy agenda including an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"Colleges and universities are at the heart of inspiring the next generation of climate leaders to create and implement sustainable clean energy solutions that fight climate change," Governor Cuomo said. "The Energy to Lead competition has created an opportunity to empower students, professors and leadership to help New York deliver low-carbon solutions for one of our toughest areas to decarbonize buildings while fostering a great sense of campus pride around the ability to create a greener and cleaner future on campuses and in surrounding communities."

As part of the Energy to Lead competition, these campuses will advance clean energy plans that will be instrumental in achieving New York State's goals to realize a carbon neutral building stock, inspire the next generation of climate leaders and provide robust opportunities for student engagement. Combined, the projects are expected to save 4,604 metric tons of carbon annually, the equivalent to removing almost 4,000 cars from the road each year. The projects provide educational and professional opportunities to students and local communities. Additionally, the projects will deliver local community benefits by helping reduce emissions in the area. Each awardee will share best practices by providing guidance documents to distribute on campus and at higher education events for replication planning, funding, and implementation. This will help maximize quantifiable energy and greenhouse gas reductions on their own campuses as well as other campuses around the state. 

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "The colleges and universities recognized through the Energy to Lead Competition are leading by example and moving our fight against climate change forward by engaging the campus community in one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Their compelling projects will deliver meaningful carbon reducing results, help develop future climate leaders and improve access to clean energy with solutions that can be replicated and brought to scale."

Energy to Lead Winners

The City College of New York - Building Performance Lab - $1.4 Million: Will develop a control based, systematic process for facilities staff and building operators to increase their ability to effectively manage and properly commission major energy consuming systems on campus. The project will deploy, test and document a systematic process to engage students and facilities staff in implementing building automation system-based procedures that offer control of electricity use.

The City College of New York President Vincent Boudreau said, "This project designed to educate energy users on data-based efficiencies. Energy efficiency is among the highest priorities we have for developing a sustainable future and City College is excited to share its expertise in this field."

New York Medical College - $1.3 Million: Will design and implement a campus-wide, direct digital control building management system that will combine existing systems with new, advanced controls to create a single system for campus HVAC, chiller and boiler pumps, and lighting controls. Training sessions will be held to help facilities staff optimize system performance and a campus climate action plan will be implemented to inventory campus greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.  The campus will conduct outreach and educational activities to inform students and the community of project progress.

New York Medical College Chancellor & CEO Dr. Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A. said, "New York Medical College (NYMC) is committed to advancing intelligent, replicable energy efficiency and conservation solutions on our Valhalla campus. The Energy to Lead award will contribute to the installation of state-of-the-art building control technologies that will be the underlayment of a substantial campus-wide reduction in greenhouse gas production. We look forward to this project serving as an important learning opportunity for our student body to learn how institutions can make measurable impacts on climate action through responsible operations. This project will serve as a tangible example of the high standard for environmental stewardship to which NYMC aspires."

Syracuse University - 1.3 Million: Will conduct a retrofit project on an existing 8-unit campus dormitory building, leveraging creative, cost-effective solutions to develop, analyze, and implement net zero energy performance. The project will evaluate the impact of renewable energy sources, high efficiency systems, and occupant-centric smart building controls to increase energy savings. Students will participate in energy modeling, simulation, and evaluation of building performance. The project will also be promoted and shared with the local community through an exhibit at the University's Museum of Science and Technology.

Syracuse University Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost John Liu said, "Syracuse University is proud of the broad cross-disciplinary team applying expertise from Architecture, the iSchool, and Engineering to a real-world problem in sustainable energy.  Not only will the project provide a proof of concept for a NetZero retrofit of an existing building but will also take into account human factors in the built environment.  Most importantly, it will provide a rich research environment for our students during the retrofit and after, as they track performance metrics and qualitative feedback on the project."

Vassar College - $1.1 Million: Will construct a new, net zero emission building for the college's Institute for the Liberal Arts along with a dashboard that reports construction and installation progress. It will feature real-time data monitoring to demonstrate project impacts and outcomes. Vassar students will contribute to the project through research and by analyzing building performance metrics to verify savings achieved through net-zero construction.

Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley said, "From the project's inception, our mission for the Institute for the Liberal Arts has been to create a space that fosters path-breaking collaborations between Vassar, our region, and the globe. We are honored to be selected as a winner of the Energy to Lead Competition and look forward to bringing this project to fruition."

The Energy to Lead Competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and supports colleges and universities that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions. Over three rounds, the Energy to Lead competition received 82 submissions from 56 private and public colleges and has awarded ten colleges and universities over $11 million since 2016. Past winners include:

  • Bard College Micro Hydro for Macro Impact
  • Broome Community College Geothermal Learning Laboratory
  • Rochester Institute of Technology Energy Conservation through Dynamic Airflow and Peak-Demand Analytics
  • Suffolk County Community College Renewable Energy and STEM Center
  • The University at Buffalo Localizing Buffalo's Renewable Energy Future
  • University of Rochester Toward Net Zero: A Scalable Solar Generation and Energy Storage Solution

Senator Kevin Parker said, "The Energy to Lead Competition is an impactful initiative that allows us to provide incentives and include local universities in efforts to reach our clear energy goals. I applaud NYSERDA and Governor Cuomo for continuing to implement initiatives that will bring community partners together for the betterment of the environment." 

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, "NYSERDA's Energy to Lead Competition enables higher educational institutions to develop ways to advance clean energy and reduce greenhouse emissions. The winning projects are forward thinking and creative, and will provide significant benefits to their campuses and surrounding communities. During hearings I held in the fall of 2019, experts testified that colleges' emissions were a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. These awards will help reduce those pollutants. The more than $5 million being awarded this year will go a long way in helping today's students become tomorrow's climate leaders."

Assemblymember Michael Cusick said, "Improving energy efficiency in our buildings is a crucial component of achieving our state's ambitious energy and climate goals. The good work of some of our state's finest institutions of higher education will go a long way in reducing emissions on their campuses, and will serve as examples for the rest of our state."

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, "New York's premier colleges and universities are uniquely situated to advance our progress to statewide carbon neutrality. I look forward to seeing the innovations the Energy To Lead awardees develop to combat climate change, and for future state funding to advance green energy leadership in our higher education institutions."

Learn more on the Energy to Lead Competition and awarded projects online.

The Energy to Lead Competition is no longer accepting applications, but New York State higher education institutions are eligible to join REV Campus Challenge and apply to Commercial & Industrial Carbon Challenge and Carbon Neutral for Economic Development. REV Campus Challenge members can also receive exclusive offerings and support through NYSERDA's FlexTech Program to kick-start their campus clean energy efforts. 

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 trillion BTUs 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.

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 achieve 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 investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $21 billion in 91 large-scale renewable projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2019, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. 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 ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.