Announces $200 Million EmPower+ Program to Reduce Energy Costs for Low-Income New Yorkers

September 21, 2023

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a series of new commitments on behalf of the U.S. Climate Alliance to decarbonize buildings and quadruple heat pump installations by 2030 alongside Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Maine Governor Janet Mills. Building on this commitment, Governor Hochul also announced a $200 million EmPower+ home retrofits program to reduce energy costs for low-income New Yorkers, advancing the Governor’s goal to achieve two million climate-friendly homes by 2030 and supports the State’s nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050.

"It's critical that we continue the transition to create an affordable clean energy future that benefits all New Yorkers," Governor Hochul said. "I am proud to stand side by side with my fellow Governors in the U.S. Climate Alliance to show our commitment to bold action to decarbonize the buildings sector. This coalition continues to prove that when we come together, we can make a greener future more equitable and accessible for all.”

The U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors representing approximately 60% of the U.S. economy and 55% of the U.S. population, announced a series of new commitments from its members to eliminate emissions from buildings, including collectively quadrupling heat pump installations by the end of the decade. New York is a founding member of the U.S. Climate Alliance and Governor Hochul is a member of the executive committee and co-chair elect.

As part of the Alliance’s new heat pump target, members agreed to collectively reach 20 million heat pump installations across the coalition by 2030, with the aim of ensuring at least 40% of benefits flow to disadvantaged communities. These installations will advance progress toward Alliance members’ goal of decarbonizing buildings, including collectively achieving zero-emission new construction as soon as practicable and accelerating efforts to eliminate emissions from existing buildings at a pace consistent with emissions targets under the Paris Agreement. This agreement comes as buildings account for 32 percent of all emissions in New York State.

To further advance and accelerate building decarbonization efforts, New York State made additional commitments with U.S. Climate Alliance members, including:

  • Exploring the adoption of zero-emission standards for space and water heating equipment.
  • Exploring the adoption of Building Performance Standards like those enacted in Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington.
  • Exploring the development of clean heat standards.
  • Working to phase out fossil fuel heating and cooling in new construction by 2027.
  • Supporting the development and adoption of advanced energy-efficient building codes that maximize opportunities for efficient electrification and support solar and electric vehicle readiness.
  • Taking actions to align buildings sector utility resource planning and procurement policies with state climate goals.

These U.S. Climate Alliance commitments build on Governor Hochul’s nation-leading legislation to require zero-emission new construction, which was included in the FY2024 Budget.

Governor Hochul also announced a $200 million EmPower+ home retrofits program to reduce energy costs for low-income New Yorkers. This statewide program, funded in the Enacted FY2024 State Budget, will help approximately 20,000 low-income families improve their home with energy efficiency upgrades that will make their home more comfortable while improving their air quality and overall health.

EmPower+ combines two long-standing residential programs, EmPower NY and Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, into one singular offer administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). By streamlining these initiatives, NYSERDA is making home energy efficiency upgrades more affordable and accessible for income-eligible customers, contractors, and program partners. Energy efficiency upgrades include adding insulation, installing energy efficient appliances, and switching to clean energy.

The statewide program is open to owners and renters of one- to four-family households that have a household income below 80% of the State/Area Median Income, reside in a single-family home in a geographically eligible territory, or participate in a utility payment assistance program. EmPower+ supports the Climate Act’s goal that at least 35%, with a goal of 40%, of the benefits of clean energy investments support disadvantaged communities. For more information on this EmPower+, including the application process and eligibility requirements, please visit NYSERDA’s website.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “Strengthening and expanding on existing energy affordability programs through EmPower+ will safeguard New Yorkers’ ability to access no-cost home energy assessments and make improvements to their home that help manage electricity bills and lower their carbon footprint. Homes that are energy efficient are then heat-pump ready and New York is proud to join the coalition committing to greater heat pump deployment. Today’s announcement is another example of Governor Hochul’s commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers benefit equitably in the transition to a green economy while working collaboratively with other leading states.”  

New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe said, “There are two challenges we must meet if we are going to halt and ultimately reverse the impacts of the ever worsening climate crisis: decarbonizing buildings and ensuring all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have access to clean energy solutions for their homes. Today we commend Governor Hochul for making progress on both fronts. By joining forces with the US Climate Alliance to quadruple heat pump installations and by implementing the EmPower+ program to help low-income New Yorkers reduce energy costs we are two big steps closer to achieving the state’s emission reduction goals.”

Building Decarbonization Coalition New York Director Lisa Dix said, “The Building Decarbonization Coalition applauds the U.S. Climate Alliance’s joint commitment to 20 million heat pumps. We celebrate Governor Hochul's leadership on scaling heat pump adoption to advance the clean heating & cooling market in New York, and dedicated funding to make clean heating and cooling affordable for New Yorkers. Due to Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York is already advancing many of these joint commitments, which is propelling bold action across the nation. From the recent passage of All-Electric Buildings Act to the appropriation of $200 million to accelerate achievement of 2 million climate friendly homes, Governor Hochul has put the marker down that New York has, and will continue to be, a national leader in building decarbonization.”

Rewiring America CEO Ari Matusiak said, "We are cheering. We calculated the pace of progress needed to meet our climate goals and this puts us right on track. But after the hottest summer on record, the news that millions more American homes will have efficient, comfortable cooling and climate-friendly heating even in our coldest states is a huge win for health and safety."

Natural Resources Defense Council New York Legislative and Policy Director Richard Schrader said, "Buildings are fossil fuel guzzlers. From homes to high-rise office towers, New York’s buildings burn staggering amounts of gas, heating oil, and propane. The best and fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution from burning those fuels is making buildings efficient and electrifying our heating and hot water systems. If done right, building efficiency improvements and equipment electrification will also shrink monthly utility bills, especially for low-income households, which have not benefited from clean energy upgrades at the same rate as others."

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Conservation Director Roger Downs said, “Climate leadership means addressing the most difficult challenges on behalf of vulnerable communities that are most impacted by extreme temperatures and compromised air quality. We commend Governor Hochul for advancing and significantly funding the EmPower+ Program in a way that will not only save thousands of working families money in energy costs through innovative heat pumps and efficiency measures, but will also drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make homes across New York healthier and more comfortable to live in.”

Today’s announcement builds on the success of NYSERDA’s EmPower NY and Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR which launched in the early 2000s. To date, these programs have served more than 250,000 income eligible homes with energy efficiency services.

Funding for Empower+ is through the Enacted FY2024 State Budget, the State’s Clean Energy Fund and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. More information about the program and associated funding can be found on NYSERDA's website.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan
New York State's nation-leading climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35%, with a goal of 40%, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation’s most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70% renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 165,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2021 and over 3,000% growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York’s climate action with nearly 400 registered and more than 100 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State’s largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to help target air pollution and combat climate change.