As clean energy policies and programs begin to stack up throughout the country, one major question remains relating to how states will use any revenues collected from policies like a carbon tax. Will they use the money to incentivize growth in renewable energy, to pay for retraining for employees of the fossil fuel industry, to redistribute as a credit to all taxpayers in the state, or for some other purpose altogether? The Green Jobs – Green New York program provides a great case study for a successful, long-lived program that effectively uses the revenue from a carbon tax to further the state’s economic growth and environmental actions.
Overview of the Green Jobs – Green New York program
The Green Jobs – Green New York (GJGNY) Act passed in 2009 as a state-level program to encourage the adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy, in order to aid in meeting the state’s energy goals. Specifically, GJGNY provides the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) with a number of different authorities to accomplish these goals, from establishing loan funds for energy efficiency to issuing competitive solicitations for projects to providing job training throughout the state. In 2013, NYSERDA became able to provide financing to net-metered, residential solar installations with GJGNY loans.
GJGNY is primarily funded through grants from the Department of Energy and state-level revenues from New York’s participation in the Northeast’s carbon market, RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. As a result, the program is robustly funded, with a budget of over $200 million, the majority of which is spent either on energy audits and implementation or on the residential loan fund. Workforce development also represents a sizable portion of the budget spent to date.
Programs provided by GJGNY
One of the primary goals of the GJGNY Act is to make energy efficiency and renewable energy more affordable for low- to moderate-income (LMI) households. As a result, the best known (and most successful) programs provide a 50% discount for energy efficiency upgrades to homeowners whose incomes are equal or less than 80% of the state’s median income, as well as a 100% discount to residents whose incomes are up to 60% of the state median income.
Beyond the audits and discounted efficiency measures, NYSERDA provides two types of loans for energy efficiency and net-metered solar for residential customers through the GJGNY program. The first, the Smart Energy Loan, functions similarly to other home-improvement loans or solar loans, where you pay off your investment through monthly payments to a third-party (i.e., not your utility nor the installer of your efficiency measures or solar panel system). The second, the On Bill Recovery (OBR) Loan provides a unique mechanism to pay off your investment, by rolling your monthly payments onto your monthly utility bill through a system called “on-bill financing”. Importantly, this allows you to continue to only pay one bill per month.
For solar specifically, the GJGNY loan is provided in addition to federal and state tax credits and performance incentives and is additive to NYSERDA’s Affordable Solar incentive, which helps make solar more accessible for all residents of the state.
Success of the program to date
Energy efficiency upgrades and solar installations can make an immediate impact on a home’s electricity costs, and can also provide marked improvements in the health and safety of the home. In fact, NYSERDA has found that the typical home that participates in GJGNY reduces their total energy use by 15-20% through the program, which can make a major impact on reducing a home’s energy burden. What’s more, about 70% of homeowners who received and efficiency audit through the program ultimately installed energy efficiency measures, pointing to the importance of audit programs such as GJGNY.
To date, the GJGNY program has provided over 8,000 loans for solar PV installations in the state. The loans are split fairly evenly between Smart Energy Loans and OBR Loans and cover an average of nearly $17,000 towards solar installations.
The GJGNY program has also been particularly successful at workforce training and development. This particular component of the initiative provides technical training, skills enhancement and certification, as well as on-the-job training incentives to help overcome the barrier of connecting skilled, trained labor with the companies that need them. One such workforce development initiative is NYSERDA’s partnership with the Brooklyn-based Green City Force, through which the state has provided clean energy training to 121 disadvantaged young adults.
You can read more about the success of GJGNY to-date in the program’s annual and quarterly reports, which are available here.
Join the clean energy revolution
When you participate in the clean energy revolution, you support green, local jobs. Energy efficiency audits and upgrades, as well as solar panel installations, require on-site, hands-on work, meaning investing in energy efficiency and solar amount to an investment in your community.
To get started with solar, check out the easy-to-use EnergySage Solar Calculator, which can help estimate how much you can save with solar. To take the next step, sign up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive custom solar quotes from local solar installation companies.