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NY Change Lab Initiatives

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ABOUT LAB INITIATIVES

The NY Change Lab empowers and supports stakeholders to work together in new ways to make progress against “stuck” issues. This work is carried out through lab initiatives, which are prototyped during lab meetings to drive forward innovative and collaborative solutions to low-income energy challenges. All lab initiatives are championed and implemented by lab participants—supported by RMI—and are currently making progress on a 100 percent volunteer basis. 

For further information regarding lab initiatives, please view full lab meeting notes on our Resources Page.

  • REVitalize: Energy plans and programs are often developed and applied top-down without meaningful local engagement or customization. As a result, many programs aren’t able to take advantage of a community’s greatest assets or meet its most pressing needs. This initiative is developing new opportunities for funding ground-up, community-led energy plans by leveraging existing initiatives such as Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and the Clean Energy Fund. These new funding streams will support pilot projects that demonstrate how community-led planning efforts can accelerate low-income access to clean energy, energy affordability, environmental justice, and resiliency, and provide local workforce and economic development opportunities.

  • Public Participation: There are significant opportunities to improve the public input process for regulatory energy proceedings and ensure that low-income concerns are incorporated into emerging energy regulation. This is especially critical in the case of the ongoing REV proceedings, which could play a formative, near-term role in shaping how low-income communities participate in a clean energy future. This initiative is developing a new model of effective and transparent public engagement between government agencies and community stakeholders on low-income energy issues.

  • Northern Manhattan Community Energy Access: As more NY communities explore options for developing community-wide energy plans, locally sited energy assets, and community-owned energy systems like microgrids, there is a growing desire to develop new business models that enable communities to own and financially benefit from locally owned and sited energy resources. This group is designing and testing an innovative, replicable business model for community solar deployment in Northern Manhattan low-income communities. 

  • Uber Coalition: Today, there are a large number of coalitions or trade associations that care deeply about the urgent risks and opportunities that REV presents for low-income communities. Several of these incorporate concern for low-income consumers into their agenda. Individually, these coalitions may not have enough leverage or ability to substantially influence the design of REV as it impacts low-income households and communities. Together, they present a much stronger voice. This initiative seeks to identify and align key REV policy recommendations as they bear on low-income community energy concerns and coordinate overlapping efforts for key REV leverage points in order to result in a “single loud voice” on those items of agreement across coalitions.

  • Lender Learning: Today, not enough lenders understand the value of distributed energy resources (DERs) or have the confidence to invest at scale in low-income DER projects. This initiative is developing informational and educational materials for lenders to enable lenders to understand the value of DERs, increase knowledge and confidence in low-income DER investments, and educate building owners on the benefits of clean energy projects.

  • Community Energy Project: New York State budgets nearly $600 million on low-income-relevant energy programs through state and federal funding. Programs such as HEAP, WAP, EmPower NY, utility payment assistance programs, and the Multifamily Performance Program each fund energy assistance but with different qualifications, goals, and programmatic constraints. This initiative is developing a program map to identify potential areas of overlap and alignment, and to develop two pilot projects that demonstrate the increased impact of coordinating disparate program funding.

  • Microgrid Resource: Community microgrid design is an emerging and challenging field. Few microgrids have been implemented in the United States, and design for low-income use adds an additional layer of complexity. Currently, more than 80 communities in New York are interested in creating microgrids in their communities. Communities need to be savvy customers when consulting technical advisors and must ensure they are making choices that meet their broader goals. To aid communities, this initiative seeks to create a guide to help communities address the fundamental legal, economic, and technical questions that need to be addressed to implement a community microgrid, identify and compare viable solutions, and define a process for making key decisions.

  • Community Power Portal: Very few communities in New York are engaged in shared community distributed generation (DG) projects. Many community-based organizations around the state would like to play active roles in advancing or facilitating community DG development, but do not yet have examples to work from or places to turn for knowledge. This initiative is developing an online portal to share information about existing communityDG projects and those under development. Over time, the portal could evolve into a point of connection, not just for peer organizations, but as a marketplace connecting such organizations with private developers, funders, and financiers.

  • REV 101: Lack of participation in REV—due to people being unaware of the proceeding or of the transformative changes that are occurring in the electricity regulatory environment—is a problem because public participation is critical for ensuring customer needs are met by the transformed system. In parallel to the Public Participation initiative (above), this initiative seeks to create an online platform that supports public education, awareness, and participation in REV and related policy initiatives.

 
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