NYSERDA Prize Administered by The Clean Fight Includes $3 Million Wells Fargo Sponsorship

October 11, 2023

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of the $10 million Empire Technology Prize, a competitive opportunity for global solution providers focused on advancing building technologies for low carbon heating system retrofits in tall commercial and multifamily buildings in New York State. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority initiative, administered by The Clean Fight with technical support from Rocky Mountain Institute, includes a $3 million sponsorship from Wells Fargo. This program supports New York State’s nation-leading Climate Act agenda including the goal to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Investing in new clean, resilient technologies is just one way that New York is advancing progress toward our ambitious Climate Act goals, and the Empire Technology Prize is the newest tool as we move forward,” Governor Hochul said. “This program will help us develop solutions that lower harmful emissions from buildings, creating healthier spaces for all New Yorkers to live and work, as we come together to fight climate change.”

Today’s announcement was made at an event held in Manhattan to discuss the transformative potential of technology to reduce energy and dependence on fossil fuels in existing tall buildings. The Empire Technology Prize is a competitive program that represents a significant market opportunity for equipment manufacturers and entrepreneurs to develop low-carbon solutions in discussion with leading real estate partners while exploring opportunities for heating system retrofit demonstration projects in tall commercial and multi-family buildings. Applicants are challenged to develop a tested and fully functional prototype of a heating or distribution system that can be installed in a manner that does not displace occupants and works with existing infrastructure in buildings seven stories or taller.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “NYSERDA is excited to partner with The Clean Fight and Wells Fargo to launch the Empire Technology Prize and usher in the next era of innovative low-carbon retrofit solutions for one of our hardest sectors to decarbonize – tall buildings. By casting a global net, we are seeking the world’s best and brightest to advance new technologies that minimize occupant disruptions and show how they could be applied in the buildings that make up the New York City skyline.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett said, “Decarbonizing New York State’s heating and cooling infrastructure is an essential step to achieving our climate goals. This funding opportunity is an example of how the public and private sector can work together to reduce the carbon footprint of New York State’s nearly 1.5 billion square feet of buildings.”

The Clean Fight Managing Director Kate Frucher said, “The Clean Fight and RMI undertook extensive research with the real estate community to identify solution gaps in the New York market with the greatest demand and GHG emissions impact. We’re excited by the potential of the Empire Technology Prize to help New York State meet its bold climate goals by accelerating the development and demonstration of these critical technologies for New York’s hard to decarbonize tall buildings.”

Solution providers are encouraged to submit proposals that will be reviewed and judged by industry experts, in conjunction with participating real estate companies partnering with The Clean Fight. The Clean Fight will bring together finalists and leading New York real estate portfolio owners interested in giving feedback on the finalist’s proposed solutions and discussing pilot and demonstration opportunities in New York. Applicants will be eligible to receive up to $1 million each; $250,000 on acceptance as a Finalist, and up to $750,000 in milestone payments by progressing their solution. In addition, a total of $2 million will be available to help finalists offset the costs of installing solutions such as pilot programs or demonstration projects in eligible tall buildings in the New York market. At the end of the one-year prize program, beginning July 2024 and ending June 2025, one winner will be awarded an additional $1 million grand prize, based on the solution with the greatest potential cumulative carbon emissions reduction by 2040 in the New York market, with a goal of facilitating the further development and deployment of the solution in New York's tall buildings.

With approximately 1.5 billion square feet of existing buildings that use steam to provide heating to New York families and workers, proposals are sought for two focus areas including:

  • Centralized building heat pumps that generate steam or high temperature hot water.
  • Solutions that make it easier to adopt readily available centralized low temperature heat pumps into existing building distribution systems.

Applications will be accepted through 3:00 p.m. on March 22, 2024.

The Clean Fight was selected as the program administrator for the Empire Technology Prize in September 2022 and has successfully operated a cohort-based, growth-stage accelerator program for the past 2.5 years. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an independent nonprofit dedicated to transforming global energy systems through market-driven solutions, is providing technical, prize design, and program support. Wells Fargo’s sponsorship aligns with the company’s ongoing work in affordability in New York and its commitment to support its business, customers and communities transitioning to a resilient, equitable and sustainable future. In addition to philanthropic efforts, the company has a goal to deploy $500 billion in sustainable financing by 2030 and is one of the largest affordable housing lenders in New York State.

The Empire Technology Prize was first announced in April 2021 as part of the $50 million Empire Building Challenge which included partnerships with 10 leading real estate groups with the goal of transforming existing multifamily and commercial tall buildings to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of these structures. The Empire Building Challenge cohort has since expanded to include partnerships with 16 leading real estate owners who collectively operate over 220 million square feet of New York real estate.

Buildings are one of the leading generators of greenhouse gas emissions in the State and 70% of buildings in New York State were constructed before the energy code and will need to be upgraded in order to achieve the State’s climate goals. The Empire Technology Prize continues the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s leadership in advancing carbon-neutrality in existing buildings and will draw on lessons learned from projects supported through the Empire Building Challenge.

This announcement builds on New York State's investments in research, development, and commercialization to support innovators that are accelerating the low emissions and carbon sequestering technologies needed to meet the State's goal for economy-wide carbon neutrality. NYSERDA's Innovation program, is deploying $800 million over 10 years as direct investments via grants and wrap-around commercialization support. More than $680 million in private investments and $200 million in project finance capital have been enabled, and more than 450 innovative clean energy products have been commercialized as a result of NYSERDA's technology and business development investments, including LED lighting systems, home appliances, longer-lasting batteries, and more efficient heating-and-cooling systems.

As authorized by the New York State Public Service Commission, funding for this initiative comes from the State’s 10-year, $6 billion Clean Energy Fund and Wells Fargo as a program sponsor. More information about the CEF is available 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.