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Greg Hale’s Blog

Build Smart New York: The Governor Said So

Greg Hale

Posted January 9, 2013

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A few days ago (December 28, 2012 to be exact), while many of us were taking a little time off to relax and attend to holiday festivities, Governor Cuomo announced a very important initiative for New York State.  The Governor issued an Executive Order directing all State agencies, departments and other public entities under the Governor’s control to collectively reduce the energy consumed in State-owned and managed buildings by at least 20% within 7 years, from a fiscal year 2010/2011 baseline.

This was by no means a hastily pulled together year-end announcement.  On the same day, the Governor launched Build Smart NY, a comprehensive, strategic implementation plan containing all of the elements necessary to ensure the initiative’s success.  For months, the Governor’s energy team has been hard at work designing this program, soliciting input from all corners of the real estate and building efficiency sectors.  The result is truly impressive.

The Executive Order creates a framework for State Agencies to follow to achieve their efficiency targets:

  • Benchmarking.  The Order requires each agency to annually benchmark the energy consumption in all State-owned and managed buildings over 20,000 square feet.  By using State building energy data to prioritize projects, the initiative aims to deliver the greatest energy savings per dollar spent.
  • Energy Audits.  Poorly performing buildings and campuses will then be required to obtain ASHRAE Level II energy audits, which will also identify opportunities for cost-effective on-site renewable generation and high-efficiency combined heat and power.
  • Implementation.  Within two years after completion of each energy audit, the Agencies are required to implement a cost-effective portfolio of efficiency measures identified in the audit – which may include no- and low-cost operational improvements, retro-commissioning, energy efficient capital improvements, and/or on-site renewable and high-efficiency combined heat and power generation.

But the plan doesn’t stop there.  The Order includes several other innovative and important requirements:

  • Submetering.  Over half of State-owned buildings are located on master metered campuses.  The Order requires the Agencies to individually submeter all buildings over 100,000 square feet on master-metered campuses by December 31, 2016, and to identify methods to finance this sub-metering process.  There is a great opportunity here for collaboration with DOE’s upcoming wireless sub-meter manufacturers’ challenge.
  • Capital Planning. The Order directs all Agencies to include an energy efficiency analysis in the capital planning process for all State-owned facilities, in order to integrate cost-effective energy efficiency measures into future capital improvement plans.
  • Leased Space.  Agencies can receive credit toward their efficiency targets by reducing energy consumption in leased spaces.
  • Distributed Generation.  Agencies can also receive credit toward their goals for installing on-site renewable generation (if the host site for such renewable generation has deployed all cost-effective energy efficiency improvements).

In stark contrast to prior attempts by New York State to improve the efficiency of its building stock, the Build Smart NY program provides the resources needed to succeed.  First, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will establish and staff a Central Management and Implementation Team (CMIT).  The CMIT will create Guidelines providing all relevant details for the implementation process, and will provide strategic and technical guidance to each Agency to facilitate compliance.  Second, NYPA has committed $450 million of financing to the Build Smart NY initiative.  And third, the Executive Order’s reporting requirements will ensure transparency, and hold each Agency accountable for reaching its 20% reduction target.

Governor Cuomo’s ambitious plans for the transition of New York State to a Clean Energy Economy will require an overarching collaboration between the public and private sectors.  This collaboration will need to be comprised of numerous separate, but complimentary and coordinated, public-private initiatives which will expand the traditional definition of public-private partnerships. Build Smart NY is one of these initiatives – a creative and cost-effective use of government resources to accelerate the development of a private sector energy efficiency retrofit market. 

  • The initiative will create thousands of near term private sector jobs in the construction industry, working to improve the energy performance of public buildings.
  • Prioritizing projects with substantial energy savings through the benchmarking and energy auditing process will ensure that the entire initiative will save significant taxpayer expense.
  • Transparency and data reporting requirements, together with the creation of a publicly accessible database on the Honest Buildings platform, will provide a valuable public resource to help stimulate demand for energy efficiency retrofits in private sector buildings.

Effectively, NY State is providing its buildings as a potential energy resource, and will be inviting private sector companies to participate in developing that resource through efficiency.  The State could foster innovation by issuing RFPs for various State buildings and campuses, requesting proposals in terms of how much energy the bidder projects that it can save at the building/campus in question, and how much of such energy savings the bidder proposes sharing with the State.

The Build Smart NY initiative is a triple play.  The Governor’s office estimates that the initiative will reduce NY’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than eight million metric tons – which is the same as taking one million cars off the road for one year.  The initiative is also an important economic development program – it will create thousands of jobs over the next seven years, and help stimulate a private sector efficiency retrofit industry that will compound those jobs many times over during decades to come.  And all at a net profit to NY State taxpayers.  Now that’s Government working for the People.

We at NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation appreciate having had the opportunity to participate in the development of the Build Smart NY Initiative, and look forward to offering support to the CMIT in developing the Guidelines, and reaching and exceeding the State’s energy efficiency targets.

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Sallan FoundationJan 9 2013 02:13 PM

Build Smart NY is a giant step forward. It has much in common with New York City's Greener Greater Building Plan and its Benchmarking & Audit laws.

A key element in fulfilling the high aspirations of public policy is public support -- and support is nurtured with the sunlight of transparency and data disclosure. Does the Governor's Build Smart NY program include a commitment to annual reporting on benchmarking & audit findings along with progress being made? It should.

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