Making Inroads: Phius 2021 Policy Wrap-up

isaac picIn this week’s blog, Phius Policy Specialist Isaac Elnecave outlines the various incentive programs, QAPs and energy codes that Phius was included in this past year.

The surge of Phius-related policies continued in 2021 with the inclusion of Phius in utility incentive programs, Qualified Allocation Plans and energy codes.

Over the last few years, it has become clear that well-designed policies can significantly spur the construction of projects meeting the Phius standard. In 2021 alone, there have been 47 projects submitted in Massachusetts, 29 projects in New York State and 27 projects in Connecticut (all states with existing Phius-related policies). 

With the calendar turning to 2022, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide a rundown of some of our policy successes from this past year. Below you will find a list of new Phius-related policies (including a number of advancements in Phius’ home state of Illinois).

Utility Incentives

Illinois

ComEd in Illinois has established a pilot incentive program providing money for both pre-construction and upon receiving final certification. ComEd will be taking applications for the program through 2022.  The applications will be reviewed on a competitive basis and will be chosen based on criteria such as size, financial status and timeline. Utilities in Massachusetts (through the MassSave program) and Connecticut (through energizeCT) offer similar programs.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Illinois

The award-winning Finch Cambridge project was funded in part by a Massachusetts incentive program.

The award-winning Finch Cambridge project was funded in part by a Massachusetts incentive program.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) completed the 2022-2023 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The QAP is the document the IHDA uses to evaluate which potential projects will receive tax credits. The evaluation process consists of using a points system (projects with higher point totals are more likely to receive funding). One of the criteria for evaluation is sustainability and/or energy efficiency. In the new QAP, projects receiving a Phius CORE certification will receive 10 points (Phius Zero projects receive an additional three points) out of a possible 100 points. 

Michigan

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority included Phius in its QAP for the first time. Projects meeting the Phius standard will receive four points; most other standards will receive three points or fewer. 

Connecticut

While Phius projects have been included in previous versions of the Connecticut QAP, the updated version gives Phius projects the largest number of points (only projects meeting the Living Futures Standard receive the same number of points). 

Energy Codes

Illinois

The Illinois legislature enacted – and the Governor signed – the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA). Among the requirements included in the 800-page piece of legislation, is that the Illinois Capital Development Board (the agency in charge of developing the state energy code) must include Phius as an alternative compliance path. This means that projects certified by Phius automatically meet code in Illinois.

We at Phius are proud of the inroads we and our community made in the realm of policies, incentives and codes this past year, and we look forward to carrying that momentum into 2022.

New York City Takes Significant Step Toward Electrification

New York City is about to be one step closer to total electrification.

The New York City Council has enacted a bill, which current Mayor DeBlasio will sign, that will ban the use of natural gas hookups on a substantial number of new buildings in the coming years. The ban will apply to all new construction seven stories and shorter starting in December 2023 and for buildings taller than seven stories starting in 2027. 

New York City as seen from 425 Grand Concourse, a Phius project in the Bronx, New York

New York City as seen from 425 Grand Concourse — a Phius project in the Bronx

There are exceptions to the new law, including: multifamily buildings in which more than 50 percent of residents are low-income, some manufacturing facilities, laundromats, crematoriums, hospitals, and commercial kitchens. 

Despite the exceptions, this law will apply to a substantial number of new buildings. From a Phius perspective, this new law is in line with the new prescriptive path for the Phius CORE standard and the Phius ZERO standard which prohibits the use of fossil fuels. Even for projects that do not choose the above standards (projects pursuing the performance path under Phius CORE can use fossil fuel combustion appliances), an increasing number are opting to go all-electric. New York City joins other major cities including Seattle, Sacramento and San Jose in enacting policies restricting the use of natural gas in the built environment. 

Finally, the legislation also mandates two studies: one on the use of heat pumps and a second on the legislation’s impact on the electrical grid. The legislation, however, does not apply to existing buildings.

This new law is part of a larger electrification effort within both the City and State. Members of the New York State Assembly have introduced legislation that would prohibit towns and cities across the state from allowing new natural gas hookups. Exceptions to this requirement would require a project to show that an all-electric approach is either physically or technically infeasible (detailed rules determine infeasibility). Moreover, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) are funding a challenge to space heating manufacturers ($263 million) to develop new products designed for existing multifamily buildings with the aim to spur the electrification market in this important sector. This effort moves in parallel with the heat pump study requirement in the New York City law. 

As we all work together to decarbonize the built environment, we look forward to reporting on many more similar policies in the coming months and years.