Green Jobs, Green New York shoots for home energy efficiency

Jan 17, 2012

The wheels are finally turning on a new-ish state program, designed to improve the energy efficiency of New York's aging housing stock. 

Green Jobs Green New York (GJGNY) tries to kill two birds with one stone: it diagnoses and funds energy efficient makeovers of old structures, with the result being the creation of so-called "green collar" construction jobs.

It also sets out to answer another age-old question: Can I trust this contractor?

"The big problem with energy audits prior to this program existing was that you were pretty much on your own to figure out what the auditor was telling you was really truly legitimate," says Domenic Cortese, of Cortese Brothers Construction, which along with other select firms, will cut its rates to participate in the program.

The program works by offsetting all or most of the cost of an independent energy assessment, which will recommend home upgrades to result in lower heating and cooling bills.

From there, participants can tap into a $120 million fund that will offer low-interest rate loans to finance fixes on their homes.

Cortese says GJGNY will inject some ease, trustworthiness and independence into a green makeover process that's been known to serve the needs of construction firms more than citizens.

"This is actually going to eliminate that kind of flip selling where a contractor is trying to sell you something you didn't need," Cortese says.

Big push in western New York

PUSH Buffalo, through new subsidiary organization called PUSH Green, will begin administering the program this month by going door to door in neighborhoods, including western New York's many tiers of suburbs, says PUSH organizer Kate Howard.

"This really accelerates the goals of PUSH," Howard says, "because PUSH has been working mostly on the west side of Buffalo, a really focused area, to create sustainable homes and sustainable community. PUSH Green will now take that mission and expand it to all of Erie County."

Allowing an energy auditor in the front door, agreeing to a government loan, and inviting invasive procedures on a home is enough to keep many folks at bay, Howard says. Yet the "win-win" nature of the GJGNY should make it more alluring for those hesitant to participate.

"It does address self interest, as far as energy efficiency - you save money on your bills, your home is more comfortable. It's more durable. But you're also getting the chance to be a part of the new green economy, to create jobs for your friends and neighbors," Howard says.

Women and minority owned businesses (MWBE) will be targeted to carry out the energy efficiency projects, although homeowners are not required to choose this track. 

Previously, PUSH had criticized state administrators for a perceived sluggishness in launching GJGNY after it became law in 2009. 

Funding energy efficiency improvements is just one prong of GJGNY. A full description of the program's benefits can be found here.