Education Leaders to Convene in Fall to Discuss Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency and Healthy Solutions for More Than 500 Schools in Disadvantaged Communities

September 23, 2021

Governor Kathy Hochul today allocated $59 million for the new Clean Green Schools initiative, which aims to advance clean energy and energy efficiency solutions that will improve indoor air quality and reduce emissions for more than 500 public and private Pre-K-12 schools in disadvantaged communities across the state. As part of the program, the State will convene education leaders this fall, including school superintendents, administrators, and educators, to inform the initiative launching in early 2022 to address climate justice issues and create improved, healthier learning environments for students. Today's announcement supports New York's nation-leading goal of an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act).

"Every child deserves a clean and healthy learning environment, and this new program will help deliver that for our students, educators, and administrators in a way that provides meaningful results and can be replicated across our state," Governor Hochul said. "I know what it's like to grow up exposed to unhealthy air, and we owe it to our children to be better than previous generations and correct these injustices."   

Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Clean Green Schools initiative will provide technical, financial, and human resource support to help schools in underserved areas evaluate, plan for, and implement energy efficient and clean heating and cooling projects to benefit the most vulnerable New Yorkers.  

The initiative will provide a range of tools, including benchmarking, energy management, indoor air quality assessments, commissioning support, student engagement in clean energy, and professional development opportunities around clean energy and sustainability, as well as two rounds of competitive incentives for clean building improvements in schools.

Today's announcement was made by Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin at Enrico Fermi School in Yonkers.

"For far too long, children in New York's most underserved communities have faced persistent and inequitable exposure to air pollution often leading to disproportionate educational and health outcomes," said Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin. "Today, the State is taking another significant step in addressing these inequities with the launch of our Clean Green Schools initiative which will provide school districts with the funding and resources needed to ensure safe and healthy classrooms and opportunities for job exploration and growth. "

To create a knowledge base that will help launch the program in 2022, the initiative will gather education leaders this fall to discuss opportunities through this program with energy efficiency and low carbon building experts from the Getting to Zero Forum Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.NYSERDA and the New Buildings Institute (NBI) Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. The initiative will offer funding for services that will help schools evaluate, plan for, and facilitate energy reduction projects, clean energy projects, and indoor air quality projects and support building decarbonization projects. Additional funding will be provided to create project-based learning opportunities to advance clean energy career pathways, internships and scholarships for students and faculty.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "This program will help improve student health and productivity by providing better air quality in schools while helping administrators lower their energy costs through energy efficiency improvements. NYSERDA is excited for the opportunity to dig in deeper with our education and clean energy partners to build this program in the most effective and efficient way for the benefit of not only today's generation of learners and educators, but for those to come."

New York State has over 6,000 public and private K-12 schools that spend approximately $1 billion in annual energy costs, which produces approximately 5.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases. Approximately 1,900 of these schools are located in disadvantaged communities across the State.

State Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, "All children deserve to go to school in a building that is a safe, healthy and welcoming learning environment.  By investing in clean energy and energy efficient solutions for our schools in underserved communities, the students in these school buildings will experience environmental sustainability firsthand." 

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "As Leader of the Senate, I commend Governor Hochul, and NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris, for this Clean Green Schools initiative. Together, we will work to improve air quality, reduce emissions, and safeguard our children's health for generations to come."

Senate Energy Committee Chair Kevin Parker said, "The Clean Green Schools initiative will ensure we are creating a safe environment for students to learn by improving the indoor air quality within their school buildings. I thank the Governor's office and NYSERDA for making schools in disadvantaged communities a priority where asthma rates are higher amongst students. This is a step in the right direction as we work towards ensuring environmental justice for everyone throughout the State."

Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, "As Chair of the Education Committee, I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul and NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris for committing to work with education stakeholders to improve indoor air quality, reduce emissions and strengthen our commitment to climate resiliency in school buildings across New York State."

Assembly Energy Committee Chair Michael Cusick said, "As our students return to school their health and safety is our top priority. While we are focusing primarily on protecting our students from COVID, it is imperative that we also work to improve air quality in our schools. Reducing emissions and investing in energy efficiency in our school buildings will protect the well being of our students and contribute to our statewide mission of achieving our ambitious energy and climate goals."

Assembly Education Committee Chair Michael R. Benedetto said, "This is a great win for the schools, environment, and children in the State of New York. Hopefully, this is just a start in a new direction for the State for a more green and future friendly environment."

“Creating healthier, cleaner, safer learning environments has been a top priority for our Yonkers schools,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. “We are grateful to the Governor and NYSERDA for their investments in our school infrastructure and attention to the health and well-bring of our students.”

Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools, said, "There is nothing more important than a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff. That is what we strive for every day in Yonkers. This can be challenging when 88% of our school are over 50 years old and 33% are centenarians.  Yonkers' families, most importantly, Yonkers' 27,000 children of whom 77% are economically disadvantaged, welcome the opportunity to accelerate needed state of the art clean and efficient energy solutions in our schools.  We appreciate that New York State is seeking input from educators to develop these solutions to improve the educational setting and enable students to thrive."

Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, said, "Advancing green and healthy schools in underserved and frontline communities is a foundational component of addressing the impacts of climate change and the history of underinvestment in our communities and improving health and educational outcomes for our children.  We are excited to see Governor Hochul and her administration start to address the needs of our communities and look forward to working with NYSERDA in the development of this initiative."

Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, said, "The path to New York's recovery must prioritize our children and their future. The plan to invest in installation of solar panels and HVAC systems in schools located in disadvantaged communities is a step forward in the right direction. It will enhance air quality, education, and health while creating career-orientated union jobs for New Yorkers. We applaud Governor Hochul's plan to move us closer towards green healthy schools."

Jeff Vockrodt, Executive Director, Climate Jobs NY, said, "We are happy to see this important step by NYSERDA to advance school retrofits and solar power, prioritizing disadvantaged communities, and we look forward to working with the Hochul administration to ensure these projects create community-supporting, family-sustaining union jobs and careers. NYSERDA's initiative can model best-practices for energy audits, whole-building retrofits, and solar power, and investing in schools presents such an opportunity. If we retrofit all the school buildings in New York City, for example, as our Carbon Free and Healthy Schools campaign advocates, we can save schools $70 million each year in energy costs, make schools healthier and safer for kids and the school community, and create thousands of good union jobs. It's an effort that everyone -- unions, parents, teachers, students, community leaders -- can get behind."

Brian Cechnicki, Executive Director, Association of School Business Officials - NYS, said, "We are excited about the Clean Green Schools Initiative put forward today by NYSERDA. Providing clean and sustainable facilities is a central function of the business of education. Our members understand the importance of infrastructure, especially in high-need districts around the state, and improving facilities has been a long-term priority of our association. We thank NYSERDA for providing this opportunity for disadvantaged school districts, and hope this work will be a model for the future." 

Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director of PUSH Buffalo, said, "Kathy Hochul seems to understand the fierce urgency of now when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. We applaud the Governor and the NYSERDA team for advancing a new program that will resource adaptation and resiliency efforts in low-income, frontline schools. It will be critical that there is transparency, accountability and community partnerships in program design and implementation at the local levels."

In addition to this effort, schools may be eligible for currently launched school-focused energy efficiency and decarbonization programs including the P-12 Schools: Benchmarking Program, P-12 Schools: Green and Clean Energy Solutions Program and Clean Heating and Cooling Technology Screenings that are available at no cost to eligible schools to evaluate the installation of ground source heat pumps (GSHP), air source heat pumps (ASHP), or variable refrigerant ow (VRF) systems. NYSERDA also prioritizes improved indoor air quality and environmental sustainability through building electrification and energy efficiency improvements to improve health in a number of public and private buildings across the state through a partnership with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). 

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 - with COVID-19 making indoor air quality in schools even more paramount. 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, which will result in an additional $1.8 billion in societal and environmental benefits.

Funding for this initiative will be made available through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the State's 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund. More information about this funding is available on NYSERDA's website

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State'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 the Climate Act, 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.