Funding Supports Under-Resourced Public Pre-K-12 Schools’ Efforts to Reduce Emissions, Improve Environmental Sustainability and Decarbonize School Buildings.

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced $100 million is now available through the Clean Green Schools Initiative under the historic $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. The initiative will allow for the advancement of construction projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help public schools improve environmental sustainability and decarbonize school buildings. Today’s announcement supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 and ensure at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits from clean energy investments be directed to disadvantaged communities.

“Creating a safe and healthy learning environment is critical to providing our children the best education possible,” Governor Hochul said. “These investments will make our school facilities cleaner and more sustainable – and will have a tremendous positive effect on future generations of students.”

As climate change increases the number of high-heat days, schools are struggling to keep cool due to outdated infrastructure in dire need of repairs or upgrades to clean energy technologies. To help address this, Governor Hochul announced in this year’s State of the State that New York will expand funding for cooling capacity for schools while they decarbonize through the Clean Green Schools program.

Currently, this program serves under-resourced public schools and helps them become sustainable, resilient and healthy learning environments in their community by upgrading to clean energy technologies to mitigate indoor air quality from pollution and wildfires. This investment will also protect against extreme heat by prioritizing funding for efficient cooling systems in schools serving vulnerable populations. The state will encourage communities that receive this funding to install cooling systems that can be opened to the community during extreme heat events to help prevent heat-related illness or death.

Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), today the competitive application process launched for the Clean Green Schools Initiative and all public school districts across New York State are eligible to apply if they are designated as high-needs by the New York State Education Department or located in a disadvantaged community as defined by the New York State Climate Justice Working Group. Incentive amounts start at $500,000 for qualifying projects leading to improved air quality, increased resiliency, and a pathway toward electrification. Proposals are due on June 6, 2024, by 3:00 p.m., ET.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “The time to address the significant impacts of climate change on our schools is now, especially in communities that have traditionally been underserved. The Clean Green Schools Initiative will provide students and educators in these districts with access to healthier learning and teaching environments while helping them to realize the benefits of more sustainable, climate-friendly school buildings.”

NYSERDA will host a webinar on February 7, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. ET (register here) for schools to learn more about the types of eligible projects, including how they will be evaluated. For continued Clean Green Schools Initiative updates, please join NYSERDA’s mailing list here.

The $100 million in funding for public schools through the Clean Green Schools Initiative is part of $400 million set aside for green building projects under the Environmental Bond Act and expands NYSERDA’s Clean Green Schools Initiative originally announced by Governor Hochul in April 2022. The draft Clean Green Schools Initiative eligibility criteria was open for public comment from November 8, 2023 to December 8, 2023. This announcement follows robust Bond Act public engagement processes which included a project idea survey and a statewide listening tour which served to identify funding needs and develop program guidelines for Bond Act implementation.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “I applaud Governor Hochul’s sustained investment in Clean Green Schools and look forward to working with DEC’s partners to support this and other green initiatives backed by the Environmental Bond Act. The availability of this funding will support the historic energy transformation in our schools as we strive to meet New York’s climate mandates and promote health and wellbeing, particularly in areas most susceptible to the effects of harmful greenhouse gas pollution.”

Public Service Commission Chair Rory M. Christian said, “By upgrading to clean energy technologies, these schools will become sustainable, resilient, and healthy learning environments in their community. This initiative, led by Governor Hochul, will also help reduce air pollution, which is especially important for our students and communities across New York State.”

New York State Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The Clean Green Schools Initiative will have far-reaching sustainable impacts on today’s students and future generations. This initiative allows schools to become environmentally sustainable by reducing energy loads, decarbonizing their buildings, improving indoor air quality, and implementing clean energy alternatives. We applaud Governor Hochul for spearheading this crucial initiative and look forward to working with our partners to create clean, sustainable, and healthy school environments for all New York State students.”

Today’s announcement builds on the $14 million in awards by Governor Hochul in October through the Clean Green Schools initiative to 11 under-resourced public school districts to modernize their buildings, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the school’s reliance on fossil fuels and improve the indoor air quality by installing ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and electric kitchen equipment. To date, 1,500 under-resourced schools across 85 districts in 35 counties in New York State are receiving technical assistance to assess indoor air quality, energy reduction, electrification and decarbonization projects.

Additionally, NYSERDA provides technical assistance to schools through the Flexible Technical Assistance Program. The Flexible Technical Assistance Program can help schools identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce energy costs and incorporate clean energy into their capital planning.

State Senator Peter Harckham said, “Directing $100 million from the Environmental Bond Act of 2022 toward school districts, especially in underprivileged communities, to improve and enhance air conditioning systems in their school buildings is a great initiative. Inefficiencies in these systems contribute to greenhouse gases and are costly. I appreciate Governor Hochul’s action in this regard knowing that it will benefit our students and improve their learning environments.”

State Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, “I applaud Governor Hochul’s commitment to making our schools more sustainable and improving the conditions of the classrooms for students, teachers, and staff. As we face fewer cold and snowy winters due to climate change, we must ensure schools have the resources necessary to upgrade infrastructure to keep buildings cool and improve air quality. Sustainable school buildings will not only help us in fighting climate change and carbon emissions but will also help students and teachers focus on their lessons, not on the heat. I also thank NYSERDA for their leadership.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said, “Much of our work towards saving the environment is for the benefit of our children. Ensuring students are in facilities that provide a healthy learning environment, particularly for our most vulnerable populations, is vital. I commend Governor Hochul’s support of the Clean Green Schools Initiative through the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 and look forward to the many positive impacts on the children of today and tomorrow.”

Assemblymember Michael R. Benedetto said, “I am grateful to the Governor and NYSERDA for allocating these funds towards Clean Green School districts.  Together we can reduce our carbon footprint, and modernize our buildings and infrastructure while at the same time providing a space for those suffering from the heat.  These are needed investments in our children and our future.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett said, “Today’s announcement of $100 million for the Clean Green Schools Initiative reflects New York State’s commitment to supporting school districts across the state as they work to decarbonize their facilities. Not only does this funding help our schools reduce their carbon footprint, it helps address a growing problem of extreme heat in our classrooms as a result of climate change. This investment is a win-win for our students and our environment.”

NYCDOE Director of Energy & Sustainability Meredith McDermott said, “As New York works towards ambitious climate goals to support the long-term health and resilience of our communities, resources like NYSERDA’s Clean Green Schools Initiative are imperative to achieve emissions targets and other critical sustainability milestones. With nearly 1,900 public schools in NYC, funding opportunities are integral to our ability to operate and maintain safe, healthy, efficient teaching and learning spaces for our students and staff in the way they deserve. On behalf of NYC Public Schools, we thank the Governor and NYSERDA for providing this essential program- it shows a deep understanding of the greatest challenges we face on our road to carbon neutrality, school climate action, and climate resilience. We look forward to leveraging this program to not only improve our physical infrastructure, but to also further support our students to enter the growing green economy with the skills and knowledge to be climate leaders.”

New York State School Facilities Association President Matt Erwin said, “Having benefited from many of NYSERDA’s P-12 Grant programs, I encourage every District to take advantage of the “Clean Green Schools Initiative”! Get financial support for both the planning and implementation of your next project, you’ll not only save energy with your new mechanicals and modern building envelope improvements, you’ll also minimize the cost to your community and provide healthier, more efficient and effective learning spaces for your students and staff.”

Association of School Business Officials NY Executive Director Brian Cechnicki said, “The Clean Green School Initiative is an important effort to help modernize our school buildings in high need districts throughout the state to meet the latest environmental standards and improve the learning environment of our students. We thank NYSERDA and Governor Hochul for this funding and look forward to the building upgrades that will occur throughout the state as a result.”

New York State Association of Small City School Districts Executive Director Robert J. Breidenstein said, “Affording Small City school districts access to critical infrastructure funding is an essential first step to modernize the physical plants in our neediest schools.  The Environmental Bond Act will enable fiscally stressed systems to responsibly upgrade facilities while promoting energy efficiencies for a generation of learners.”

Buildings are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings. By improving energy efficiency in buildings and advancing statewide installations of onsite storage, renewables, and electric vehicle charging equipment, the State will reduce its carbon pollution and achieve the State’s ambitious target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes.

In addition to Bond Act funding, the Clean Green Schools Initiative is funded through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the State’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund, which is authorized by the New York State Public Service Commission. 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 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 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, 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 percent 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 $46 billion in 65 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, nearly $3 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 170,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector as of 2022 and over 3,000 percent 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 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.


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