- The New York Department of Public Service (DPS) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on April 23 announced additional flexibility for energy efficiency administrators and workers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Program modifications include expedited payments to vendors and contractors for all completed work, and a range of other changes and training opportunities aimed at maintaining the state's clean energy workforce.
- NYSERDA also announced it would begin working on energy efficiency "protocols to ensure the health and safety" of providers and customers, once on-premise work is allowed to resume. The state's economy has been in limbo since Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, signed the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order on March 22, limiting all non-essential work.
Industry advocates say almost 130,000 New Yorkers are employed by the energy efficiency sector, and now the state is rolling out initiatives to preserve those jobs and others in the clean energy industry.
Along with the expedited payments, DPS also implemented streamlined procedures for accepting electronic signatures for project applications and other necessary paperwork, and is extending program deadlines or modifying project milestones impacted by the PAUSE executive order.
In lieu of post-installation site visits, DPS said it will identify alternative ways to verify projects and ensure vendors and contractors are paid. And the changes call for NYSERDA to identify projects that have "minimal risk of non-completion" and therefore could qualify for interim milestones and partial payment.
The modifications "represent the first phase of support for energy efficiency and clean energy businesses," DPS said. "Unfortunately, the clean energy industry in New York has already been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 crisis."
The Alliance for Clean Energy-New York (ACE-NY) on March 27 petitioned the state for assistance in keeping the energy efficiency sector healthy during the global pandemic.
"To support New York now and in the future, the [energy efficiency] industry must first survive this crisis and retain the skilled workforce needed to grow the clean energy economy," ACE-NY wrote. "At the moment, the situation is dire."
The group says job losses and furloughs are "accelerating" to 40% or more of efficiency workforces, critical work is stalled, and the state is "at risk of losing the skilled workforce that we have all employed and trained for many years."
DPS has announced training efforts, along with program flexibility, to support the workforce.
"We heard from participants increased interest in a range of initiatives that take advantage of the window for training and outreach presented by the suspension of field and on-premises work," DPS said. "During this period of PAUSE, we would like to reinforce training and contractor outreach opportunities, including advancing skills."
NYSERDA plans to provide contractors with information on free or subsidized online training resources, and will modify the agency's on-the-job and internship training initiatives to extend timelines, enhance subsidies and increase flexibility.
NYSERDA also committed to ensure regular outreach and communication with the vendor/contractor community "to solicit input on program operations" as well as communicate program modifications in real time.
DPS is also considering how it can support the state's demand response industry.
The Advanced Energy Management Alliance on April 15 asked regulators to give them flexibility in enrolling participants in demand response programs and how their load reduction commitments are set, as the industry heads into the summer demand season facing uncertainty due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.