A new report out of the Brookings Institution gives New York high marks for leveraging state clean energy dollars to create new clean tech industries and new jobs, suggesting other states should follow its example. The report follows the green jobs study released by Brookings last year. That study found the Albany, New York area among the hottest areas for green jobs growth in the country.
As we enter an election season in which creating jobs is likely to be very much a focus, it is worth pausing to recognize the successes of the New York Energy Research & Development Authority—NYSERDA. NYSERDA was created in 1975 to help the state reduce its reliance on petroleum, but over the years it has helped the state take on other big energy and environmental challenges.
NYSERDA is New York’s expert agency on improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. It supports energy audits and provides financial incentives for energy efficiency measures like improved insulation, appliances and heating and cooling systems. Not only do energy efficiency investments drive local jobs for the contractors carrying out the measures, they also save consumers money.
In addition to driving energy efficiency improvements, NYSERDA implements the state’s renewable energy standard—which aims to provide 30% of New York’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2025. This entails support of numerous wind farms, biomass and hydroelectric projects across the state. These projects drive good-paying jobs.
In its recent report, the analysts at Brookings highlighted NYSERDA’s innovative Clean Energy Business Incubator program. Since early 2009, NYSERDA has created six clean-tech business incubators across the state. These incubators partner with early stage tech companies to help these new businesses get rolling.
And it’s working. According to Brookings, these six business incubators have created several hundred jobs at client start-up companies and have generated 33 new products for sale in the clean energy economy. And this after just 3 years.
Perhaps most extraordinary is this stat, however: with an investment of a little less than $4 million, the NYSERDA incubator program has attracted $41 million in private investment and $11 million in federal funding.
Importantly, NYSERDA has always been a bi-partisan venture. In fact, two of the major funding mechanisms for NYSERDA were created under Republican George Pataki by the New York State Public Service Commission. These include the State’s “system benefits charge”, a very small charge that appears on our electricity bills that goes into a fund to drive energy efficiency investments, first introduced in 1996. Similarly, the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard was created in 2005 and later strengthened under Governor Patterson.
NYSERDA has also served as a model for neighboring states. Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in 2008 and Connecticut more recently created the Clean Energy Financing and Investment Authority.
Are there things NYSERDA could do better? No doubt. But isn’t it nice every now and then to just focus on the positive?
At a time when so much of the public debate and the press in this country is aimed at how government gets things wrong, we need to look a little harder for the positive stories. New Yorkers can look to NYSERDA.
Franz Litz is the Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center and Professor of Law at Pace Law School.
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