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A Big – and Growing – Pot of Money for Green Projects

Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on July 18, 2018

Brooklyn

Money for Green Projects

Marcus Garvey Apartments' lithium ion battery project (photo courtesy Jessica Luk, NYCEEC)

July 18, 2018

Co-op and condo boards that are thinking about undertaking green projects should realize they don’t have to go it alone. A major source of loans for such projects, the nonprofit New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC), is experiencing rapid growth in its assets, its geographic reach, and the types of projects it is helping to get off the ground.

“Demand is driving our growth,” says Curtis Probst, who has been NYCEEC’s co- CEO since April. “How we meet that demand is by borrowing from banks, foundations, philanthropic organizations, plus using government incentives.”

The corporation’s assets – its existing loans plus cash on hand – now total about $63 million, up 21 percent from last summer through this spring, Probst says. About half of NYCEEC’s loans go to co-ops, condos, and other multi-family buildings, both affordable and market-rate, while the remainder go to commercial and industrial properties. The loans cover such energy efficiency projects as solar panels, boiler conversions from oil to natural gas, cogeneration systems, and the coming generation of cutting-edge batteries that store electricity. While originally focused in New York City, the 7-year-old nonprofit now services eight surrounding states.

One reason for this expansion, Probst says, is that lending institutions, including major banks, see a double benefit in funding green projects: there’s a profit to be made; and there’s a benefit to the planet. “All major banks have established environmental targets as part of their corporate social responsibility,” he says. “Meeting goals on climate change is important in boardrooms today, and we’re a way to help them meet those goals.” On some projects, he adds, NYCEEC will work with numerous lenders. “We try to punch above our weight by lending a portion of the money and finding other lenders to come in.”

One of NYCEEC’s goals is to help fund innovative projects. A prime example is the $1.2 million loan for a lithium ion battery now in place at Marcus Garvey Apartments, a 625-unit rental complex in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Working in conjunction with Demand Energy, NYCEEC helped fund a system that is capable of what’s known as “peak shaving.” To avoid higher electricity costs at times of peak demand, the battery storage system anticipates a building’s peak load event and shaves off the top of a demand spike. This reduces the demand charge Con Ed customers see on their electricity bills.

“Storage has a bright future, though it’s still relatively new,” says Probst, who likens today’s battery-storage technology to solar-panel technology a decade or so ago, when it was prohibitively expensive. Today, thanks to falling hardware costs and rising government incentives and tax breaks, solar is enjoying widespread acceptance across New York City.

Those incentives and tax breaks are a critical part of the equation. “Co-op and condo boards need to realize that there are government programs that can help them improve energy efficiency,” Probst says. “The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has its Community Energy Engagement Program. And New York City has the Retrofit Accelerator. We encourage boards to explore these options.”

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