Green Building Law Update Service

Center for Climate Change Law

On November 9, 2010, Governor David A. Patterson released the interim New York State Climate Action Plan.  The plan, which is open for public comment until February 7, 2011, identifies improving energy efficiency in buildings as one of five sector-based strategies to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions and advance clean energy in New York State.

Executive Order No. 24, issued in August 2009, set a goal of reducing GHG emissions in New York State by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  It also established the New York Climate Action Council, which was tasked with setting forth measures to achieve this goal.

In identifying the residential, commercial/institutional and industrial building sector (RCI) as the largest source of gross GHG emissions in New York, the plan emphasizes the importance of using building design and renovation to optimize energy conservation opportunities.  It highlights the need for an integrated and diverse set of policy options – statutory and regulatory policies, voluntary incentive policies and supporting policies – to reduce carbon emissions, promote energy efficiency, and encourage adoption of on-site renewable energy.

Central to the plan’s recommendations is that the State regularly update and aggressively enforce its Energy Conservation Construction Code (otherwise known as the State Energy Code).  The plan specifically recommends amending the Energy Code to abolish the so-called “50 percent rule” and the 10-year payback legislative mandate.  Currently, the Code only applies to new construction projects and existing building renovations that result in the replacement of at least 50 percent of a building’s subsystems, effectively allowing piecemeal renovations to usurp the conservation benefits of the Code.  Such an amendment would bring the Code into alignment with New York City’s stricter Energy Conservation Code, which closes this loophole.  The plan also advocates abolishing the requirement that compliance with any change to the Energy Code must be able to be paid back through energy savings in 10 years or less. Abolishing this requirement, the plan suggests, would help New York achieve 90% compliance with its Energy Code by 2017, as prescribed by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The plan also recommends mandating that all private buildings greater than 50,000 square feet and all public buildings greater than 10,000 square feet publicly report their annual energy and water benchmarking scores, perform an energy audit every 10 years, retro-commission and install energy efficiency measures.  Following action taken in San Francisco and Berkeley, California, it also suggests that every 1 to 4-family home sold in New York receive a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating which would be disclosed to all prospective buyers.

The plan also recommends several incentive options that would encourage owners of existing buildings to undertake renovations, install efficiency measures, and use on-site renewable energy.  The plan also suggests the creation of an “efficiency and clean energy fund” that would leverage public funding and private financing to finance clean energy activities.

The plan also highlights the importance of developing a skilled workforce, expanding the use of flexible metering, funding research and development and influencing societal attitudes and behavioral change related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

[note:  this post was drafted by Sascha Yim]

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