Program Will Improve Air Quality, Advance Clean Energy and Reduce Carbon Emissions in Pre-K-12 Public Schools

April 22, 2022

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced $59 million in funding is now available for the Clean Green Schools initiative, which will advance clean energy and energy efficiency solutions to improve indoor air quality and reduce emissions for more than 600 under-resourced public Pre-K-12 schools across the state. All public school buildings across New York State that are designated as high-needs by the New York State Education Department [PDF]Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. or located in a disadvantaged community will be eligible to participate in the program. First announced during Climate Week 2021, the initiative was developed with input from education leaders and low carbon building experts. Today's announcement builds on the historic achievements in the enacted FY 2023 Budget, including the expanded Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, as well as New York's first in the nation requirement for all new school buses to be zero-emission by 2027. It also supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal of an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"Providing cleaner and healthier places for children to learn and grow is an absolute must if we want to deliver on a green transition that benefits all," Governor Hochul said. "This Earth Day, we reflect on the ways New York has made strides to fight climate change and will continue to lead the nation with our climate goals. The Clean Green Schools initiative will bring meaningful change to communities that have been too often left behind, allowing our schools to be models of innovation while giving educators and students the type of learning environment they deserve."

Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), applications are now being accepted for the Clean Green Schools initiative, which will help public schools in disadvantaged communities or high-needs areas [PDF]Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. that traditionally lack resources to invest in infrastructure improvements become healthier, more productive learning environments. This initiative advances climate justice by providing technical, financial, and human resource support to help under-resourced public schools assess and implement energy efficient heating and cooling projects to benefit the most vulnerable New Yorkers. All HVAC projects funded under this initiative will address indoor air quality.

Funding to significantly expand the program will be included in the historic $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which will go before voters in November. If approved, the Bond Act funding will allow the program to serve will serve more than 1,000 under-resourced public schools and benefit nearly 1 million students, driving significant infrastructure upgrades, such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar, green roofs, and indoor air quality/ventilation. The historic Bond Act will also provide the support New York needs to provide safe water to drink; invest in critical water infrastructure; restore critical environmental habitats; reduce flood risks; preserve our outdoor spaces and local farms; and invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects that will reduce air pollution, lower carbon emissions, and improve the ability of New York communities to withstand the climate-driven increase in severe weather events and flooding.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "Addressing the impacts of climate change in our schools is critical on this Earth Day, and every day, as it will build a more sustainable future and create healthy environments for children and educators across New York. Making improvements to increase energy efficiency and clean heating and cooling and supporting educational activities centered around decarbonization are foundational efforts for this initiative, and they ensure the Clean Green Schools initiative will benefit our communities and state for generations to come."

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "On this Earth Day, New York is sending a resounding message that we are leading the nation by advancing actions to fulfill our commitment under New York's landmark Climate Law in tackling the damaging impacts of climate change. Today with the Clean Green Schools initiative, the Governor is answering that call with real and impactful change that will increase energy efficiency in our schools and electrify our school buses, building a greener, healthier and a more sustainable learning environment for our children."

Applications are open for the two tracks participating in the initiative:

  • Track I will provide professional services, including energy studies, on-site energy managers and fiscal advisors, to help schools evaluate and facilitate comprehensive energy reduction, decarbonization, environmental sustainability, and indoor air quality improvements.
    • Funding for Track I will be provided on an open enrollment, first-come-first-served basis.
  • Track II will provide schools with funding for construction projects that decarbonize their building portfolios, including retrofits that impact energy consumption and overall building load, electrification readiness projects, and conversion of central heating and/or cooling plants to clean energy technologies such as heat pumps.
    • Funding for Track II will be provided on a competitive basis.

Participating schools in either Track may also apply for funding under the initiative to support eligible activities that create or further clean energy educational opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. New York State has over 4,000 public K-12 schools that spend approximately $800 million in annual energy costs, which produce approximately 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases. Approximately 2,500 of these schools are located in a disadvantaged community or high-needs area and are eligible to participate in the initiative. Schools that are interested in applying to the program should visit the NYSERDA website.

In addition to today's announcements, New York State currently offers incentives for the purchase of new electric school buses through the New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) administered by NYSERDA. NYTVIP provide incentives up to $220,000 for electric school buses located within disadvantaged communities utilizing up to $12 million in funding from the State's settlement with Volkswagen and the Congestion Mitigation for Air Quality Improvement Program. To date, New York has committed nearly $70 million in VW settlement funds to replace diesel-powered medium-and heavy-duty vehicles with new zero emission vehicles, including electric transit buses, school buses, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and cargo handling equipment. For more information, visit Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

To further improve air quality for school-age New Yorkers and local communities, the State Budget requires that all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero-emissions by 2035. The State Budget will provide $500 million through the Bond Act to support school districts in purchases of zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure including charging stations, aided by technical assistance to be provided by NYSERDA. Additionally, the State Budget authorizes school districts to lease or finance zero-emission buses for 12 years, more than double the current five-year limitation for diesel buses, in order to help districts meet this goal, and ensures Transportation Aid is provided on zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure.

State Senator Kevin Parker said, "I applaud Governor Hochul and NYSERDA for making our children a priority by advancing clean energy in New York schools. This will investment will ensure students throughout the state are able to attend schools that are environmentally friendly."

State Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, "Thank you to Governor Kathy Hochul and NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris for their continued commitment to improve air quality and reduce emissions in schools across our state."

Assemblymember Michael Cusick said, "While we work to decrease our emissions to meet our statewide goals, it is important that we make sure to protect our children. The Clean Green Schools initiative protects our environment and our young students by reducing emissions and improving indoor air quality in our state's schools. This initiative is crucial to achieving the goals of the CLCPA, reducing emissions, and creating a cleaner learning environment for our students."

Director of Sustainability, New York City Department of Education, Meredith McDermott said, "The NYC Department of Education is thrilled to see such momentum in the dedication of programs and resources to support schools to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, and integrate sustainability and climate education more formally into teaching and learning. Upgrades to our buildings and infrastructure will always encircle our school communities, and means to connect these core components are critical to make progress. Schools present endless opportunities for climate action, and NYSERDA's Clean Green Schools Initiative is a positive indicator that New York is leading the way!"

President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, Julie Tighe said, “Making a commitment to a nation-leading transition to electric school buses across the state and decarbonize our schools are transformative investments into our environment, our students, and for public health. NYLCV supports this strong commitment from the Governor and NYSERDA to provide support for underserved communities to reduce emissions and improve air quality through the Clean Green Schools Initiative with major funding in the upcoming $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. When we switch to electric school buses, we’re going to be protecting our students and communities, and we’re going to be helping keep students safe and healthy in Clean Green School buildings.”

NYS School Facilities Association Vice President Jeffrey Mochan said, "I am extremely excited at the prospect of participating in the Clean Green Schools Initiative. As the Director of Facilities at Clyde Savannah Central School, a small rural district, this program will provide an affordable means to curtail some of our energy costs, help the environment, and improve the indoor air quality for our staff and students. I would encourage every qualifying district to participate in this program."

Executive Director, NYS Council of School Superintendents Charles Dedrick said, "We applaud the Clean Green Schools Initiative because, in the long-run, shifting dollars that currently pay for energy consumption and moving them towards the education of children, will benefit all of New York State. Efforts to reduce energy costs will help schools utilize resources more efficiently to improve outcomes and save taxpayers money. We look forward to partnering on this initiative moving forward."

Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council Anisa Heming said, "The Clean Green Schools Initiative is a model for states around the country. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of school environments in keeping students and teachers healthy and in school. This program's investments in staffing and infrastructure to support energy efficiency and healthy school environments will lead to better school buildings, more prepared school facilities staff, and deeper learning for our students about energy resources and sustainability."

Executive Director of the New York City Mayor's Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Kizzy Charles-Guzman said, "Every ounce of carbon, soot and fossil fuel pollution that we remove from the air we breathe matters, because children and communities thrive in healthy environments. Investing in energy efficiency upgrades in schools is crucial to improving health, mitigating climate impacts, and developing and supporting a green economy. That is why New York City committed to an all-electric school bus fleet last year, is expanding rooftop solar arrays on schools, and has significantly reduced greenhouse gas and soot emissions from our school buildings. We applaud Governor Hochul's commitment to providing schools across the state with the resources they need to execute this important work."

Co-Founder and Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice Peggy Shepard said, "Data shows that poor ventilation and air quality affect the concentration and attention span of children in schools that are not well ventilated and energy efficient. This support from the governor is critical to the overdue investment in the educational environment of children, especially those in poorly maintained schools in environmental justice communities. This is an important investment in our children."

Conference of Big 5 School Districts Executive Director Jennifer K. Pyle said, "The Conference of Big 5 School Districts applauds Governor Hochul for advancing NYSERDA's Clean Green Schools Initiative. Our member school districts have high concentrations of poverty and long-standing fiscal capacity issues, and this initiative will provide critical resources necessary to improve air quality and address facility deficiencies for our students, their families and staff. We thank Governor Hochul for her support and are eager to work together on this groundbreaking Initiative to make our schools safer, protect scarce resources and provide new educational experiences for our students and staff."

Co-Founder of UndauntedK12 Sara Ross said, "New York's new Clean Green Schools program couldn't have come at a better time. Schools are ready to be part of the solution when it comes to climate change but they need support throughout the process from benchmarking to planning to implementation. The Clean Green Schools program does just that. And with a focus on high-need communities, this program recognizes the inequitable conditions that characterize our school facilities today. With this new initiative, New York embraces the imperative for schools to break their dependence on fossil fuels. We look forward to supporting this effort in New York and helping other states follow this exemplary lead."

Schools that are not eligible to participate in the Clean Green Schools Initiative may be eligible to participate in the P-12 Schools: Green and Clean Energy Solutions Program, which provides technical assistance to help schools reduce energy loads and assist in the conversion to carbon-free fuels. In addition, NYSERDA 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, $6 billion Clean Energy Fund, supplemented by investments made available if the Bond Act is passed by voters this fall. 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 $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission 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 $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector in 2020, 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.