Edison Energy recently sat down with Sean Mulderrig, Sr. Project Manager at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to discuss the agency’s latest Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Carbon Challenge. The program helps large energy users across the state to deploy clean energy projects and cut greenhouse gas emissions in support of New York’s nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
In May, NYSERDA launched the fourth round of its Commercial and Industrial (C&I) Carbon Challenge, making $15 million available as part of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.
The C&I Carbon Challenge is a competitive program that provides funding to large commercial and industrial energy users to implement various cost-effective clean energy projects that reduce carbon emissions. Large energy consumers are organizations or businesses with a 12-month average electricity demand of 3 MW or more at one site or aggregated across multiple sites in New York State.
NYSERDA will award up to $15 million of funding in total, ranging from $500,000 to $5 million per successful proposal.
The deadline to apply is July 29.
The fourth round of funding is being made available to a variety of in-state businesses and institutions including manufacturers, colleges and universities, health care facilities, and office building owners, among others. Project proposals may employ a combination of energy or manufacturing process efficiency strategies, carbon capture technology, beneficial electrification, renewable generation, and energy storage, among other technologies.
Increased funding has been made available for projects that electrify buildings or manufacturing equipment, reduce industrial thermal process emissions, or make operational and technical changes that reduce industrial process emissions.
Challenge winners are selected based on their plans for project implementation, institutional commitment to sustainability, overall level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduced, and their potential to beneficially impact disadvantaged communities
The program will support New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to significantly reduce GHG emissions by 2050. Participation in the C&I Carbon Challenge will help businesses reduce energy costs, achieve sustainability goals, and improve air quality for workers and community members.
“The name of the game with this program is reducing emissions onsite,” Mulderrig said. “It’s driving directly at that target with this shift in strategic focus towards electrified systems and trying to build off of the other targets like 100 percent renewable electricity systems. Once your equipment is electrified, your emissions are falling even faster because the electricity you’re getting is completely renewable. Industry is an area where there are hard to abate types of emissions. It’s a hard sector of the economy to completely zero out, so our goal is to provide as much support for the types of solutions that can bring this as close to a reality as possible.”
Since the first C&I Challenge in 2018, New York State has set bold climate targets, including 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, a zero-emissions power system by 2040, and a reduction in economy-wide GHG emissions by at least 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, as laid out in the Climate Act.
The Act also calls for 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035, 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030, and 6,000 MW of solar by 2025, recently expanded to 10,000 MW by 2030.
“They are aggressive targets and we’ve altered some of the program particulars to offer increased levels of support for strategic types of projects that are important to meeting the Climate Act goals and important to scaling some technologies,” Mulderrig said.
Funding is being provided across two categories, including a total of $10 million for proposals that incorporate key solutions such as beneficial electrification and reduced emissions related to manufacturing processes to lower the applicant’s carbon footprint.
$5 million will go towards proposals that employ energy efficiency, on-site clean energy generation, and other GHG reduction solutions.
Response to this year’s C&I Challenge has been strong, according to Mulderrig.
“We see a lot of active participation from higher ed institutions,” he said. “For many schools, sustainability is a principal focus. The other is the manufacturing industry. This program can offer support not just for the standard energy efficiency projects like HVAC or elevator upgrades. We can support projects that deal with heavy manufacturing equipment. NYSERDA has a long working relationship with industry working on these more advanced projects that make manufacturing more energy efficient. We’re nimble at understanding what it is they are proposing and finding the right ways to support it.”
Because the program takes a variety of approaches to reducing emissions, Mulderrig says there is significant opportunity for next-gen technologies and new, cutting-edge solutions to be deployed across the state.
“The growth of that climate tech or solution ecosystem has economic benefits,” he said. “Beyond that, NYSERDA provides special consideration for projects located in disadvantaged communities. In many cases, we find that industrial companies do tend to have a footprint in these frontline communities, which are likely to be highly impacted by climate change. Any effort to reduce emissions will typically have a knock-on effect of improving local air quality. If you’re reducing your CO2 emissions and the amount of fuel you’re burning, all of these secondary co-pollutants are also coming down just as a byproduct of reducing your GHG emissions.”
Awardees will work closely with NYSERDA to update, refine, and implement their carbon reduction strategies over three years. Each awardee will also receive the benefit of a dedicated NYSERDA project manager and technical specialist to track progress, provide feedback and guidance on measures to be implemented, and collaborate with other NYSERDA partners.
For more information and to apply online, please visit the C&I Carbon Challenge webpage.
Check out additional conversations with leading experts from across the industry in our Visionary Voices: Perspectives in Energy Series.
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