Finding Energy Incentive Programs

Sara Jayanthi, senior NYSERDA Energy Smart Communities coordinator for Solar One, talks to MHN about why it's important to have an energy coordinator and the easiest ways for a building to save electricity.

New York—There are often many state-wide energy incentive programs; however, not every multifamily business is aware of these programs. That’s where Sara Jayanthi, senior NYSERDA Energy Smart Communities coordinator for Solar One, comes in. Jayanthi talks to MHN about why it’s important to have an energy coordinator and the easiest ways for a building to save electricity.

MHN: Describe NYSERDA. What do you do for them?

Jayanthi: NYSERDA is the state energy agency for New York, and they develop incentive programs that New Yorkers can take part in so they can implement energy efficiency or install renewable energy [systems] in their homes or their businesses, or pretty much any property they own. It’s essentially allowing for market uptake. They develop all these interesting programs, but a lot of times people don’t find them for whatever reason. So my job is really to be an outreach coordinator, working at Solar One. We know our community, we know New York City, we know how to get in touch with people, so NYSERDA gave us the contract to update people about saving energy and renewable energy and how to take part in these programs.

Sometimes energy is a little bit difficult for people to understand. Incentive programs are designed around those complicated ideas. I consider myself a translator for a small business owner, who says, “I really want to reduce my electricity bills,” so I can walk through the process with him and help him understand the engineering concepts in a way that makes sense for him.

MHN: What are some of the incentive programs?

Jayanthi: [One program] is the multifamily performance program, which is a great program. Empower New York is the plan that we helped Cooper Square Housing Association enroll in. That’s a program that’s unique because renters can take part in it. It’s for low-income renters or homeowners, and it can apply to both single-family and multifamily buildings.

MHN: You gave out refrigerators to people in those communities, right?

Jayanthi: Yes! As part of the program, if a refrigerator is more than 10 years old or has a certain amount of electricity usage, they will replace it, because especially in an apartment, the absolute biggest energy waster is the refrigerator—it’s on all the time, it’s coolant is just constantly cycling. Replacing a 10-year-old refrigerator [represents] a drastic slash in the electricity bills.

MHN: What are some of your general suggestions to help buildings save energy?

Jayanthi: The easiest thing to do is tackle the lighting, because lighting is a really fast switch out. If you switch out your lighting to more efficient lighting, you’re going to see a very fast pay back.

MHN: Back to your position, why is it necessary to have a community outreach person? What are your main goals?

Jayanthi: It’s like the concept of constituency services; people don’t have time to investigate beneficial state programs. Understanding energy is pretty complicated, especially energy efficiency and building science. [People] investigating different incentive programs when doing a home renovation or running a small business don’t have time to investigate what money’s out there if they want to change their lighting. And that’s why we exist—because time is more valuable than money, to some extent.

From our perspective, we all pay into this fund. It’s on our electricity bill, called the Systems Benefit Charge. It ends up being a little a year, but this state money is for our benefit. We feel that it’s our responsibility to let people know that this exists, and they should be taking advantage of it. Our electricity prices are going to go up, so why not do what we can right now so we don’t have to feel too much of the brunt of that.