The chill wind and rain made Wednesday October 19th a fitting day to celebrate energy awareness at the Energy Management Training Center of the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA).
The day began with instructor-led demonstrations in AEA’s boiler and installer laboratories where engineers, contractors, building supers, and green job seekers go for instruction on building operations, building assessment and skills needed to install energy efficiency upgrades.
Weatherization agencies, manufacturers and contractors participated with displays. They brought building owners, residents, and new hires from across the region to the Bronx event to share their stories. Guests also toured the rooftop installations and distance learning classroom, and met workers trained by AEA and its workforce partners.
A ribbon-cutting dedicated AEA’s new green roof and rooftop solar demonstration and training facilities. Borough President Rubén Díaz and Daniel Buyer, Assistant Commissioner of NYS Homes and Community Renewal (NYS HCR), joined AEA Executive Director David Hepinstall and guests for the occasion. While serving in the State Assembly, Mr. Díaz helped AEA to secure a major grant to develop the green roof and solar photovoltaic components. NYS HCR funded the solar thermal equipment.
Borough President Díaz applauded the collaboration between AEA and the Consortium for Worker Education (CWE) and Bronx workforce development partners as one point on what he called a “green triangle” of green development, green workforce training, and manufacturing of materials and components used in building and retrofitting buildings to be more efficient that he aims to bring to Bronx.
Mr. Díaz congratulated Weatherization agencies, contractors, building owners and residents, and especially AEA trainers and CWE for making this progress possible. “Everyone is talking about how you create jobs throughout the country,” he remarked. “All they need to do is come right here in the Bronx and they’ll see how.”
Executive Director David Hepinstall recited the ways that AEA’s new rooftop installations would save and produce energy for the building, power the grid through net metering, harvest rainwater and clean the air. He told of its demonstration and workforce training uses for installers. AEA staff explained the monitoring systems installed to compare and assess contributions made by the various components, and to discover ways to make them even better.
“That’s a lot of productivity for a small space,” said Hepinstall. “But those of us in Weatherization are used to doing a lot with a little. And over the past two years we’ve been privileged to do a lot with a lot” – growing AEA’s capacity in order deliver energy audits, expanding its training to provide a ready workforce to weatherization subgrantees and contractors to take advantage of expanded business opportunities. And he spoke of the “privilege to develop the strengths of our new employees to give them traction in this economy.”
The federal Weatherization Assistance Program, created in 1976, has typically operated on slender budgets, and survived repeated threats. It got a big boost in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when the Obama Administration pledged to make Weatherization a cornerstone of its job recovery effort.
Daniel Buyer, Assistant Commissioner at New York State Homes and Community Renewal reported that “Weatherization – and more specifically, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Weatherization – is a success in New York. Not only have our subgrantees been successful, but we have contractors who have created whole new wings of their business thanks to the American Reinvestment and recovery.”
37,355 dwelling units have been weatherized under ARRA in New York as of September 30, 2011, with another 27,000 in production—totaling more than 60,000 units to be completed by the close of 2011 and far surpassing the 45,000 units initially targeted, Buyer told the crowd. Over $300,000,000 has been spent in New York to date. New York reports 1,426 jobs at living wages created by the program but this conservative number, he said, is a significant underestimate. More than half of the state’s production to date has been in the New York City region.
“We’re introducing landlords not only to the benefits of Weatherization, but to the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of your building and how that is good business,” said Buyer. For weatherization groups and contractors looking beyond the ARRA period, market-altering program impacts like these are critical to keep their businesses thriving.
New York targeted 70 – 80% of its ARRA funds to multifamily housing. “We took on projects like Lindsay Park [a large complex of nearly 2,700 units in Brooklyn] that would never have been possible previously, and just as importantly we’ve demonstrated to the country the importance and significance of weatherizing multifamily housing. Now everyone across the country in all the states wants to do multifamily housing…. They realize the importance of saving energy in apartment buildings and they’re looking to New York and to organizations like AEA to show them how to do it.”
Observing that stimulus funding will end for Weatherization on March 31, 2012 and that the federal funding picture is uncertain thereafter, Hepinstall stated “We will pursue all options for publicly or privately funded approaches to deliver our expertise … in market rate housing, in schools and institutional buildings, in government and commercial properties. But it is time for the President and Congress to act. Low income Weatherization will not happen without government support.”
The formal program was closed with a video documentary of Weatherization’s contributions to affordable, safe and healthy housing in New York’s communities.
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