The Trump White House has wasted no time in targeting pro-climate policies, or freezing energy-efficiency standards finalized during the last days of the Obama administration. Its “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of renewable energy or energy efficiency, and it is focused on fossil fuels.
But in 2012, Donald Trump, the businessman, played a different tune.
That year, Trump finished securing almost $1 million in energy-efficiency incentives and low-interest loans from New York state to fit a Trump-branded residential tower in Westchester County with eco-friendly fixtures, state records show.
“I strongly believe in clean energy, in conserving energy, all of that — more than anybody,” Trump is quoted as saying in a fact sheet about the project, at Trump Tower at City Center in White Plains. As part of the project, a state-of-the-art power system that recycles energy was installed.
The Trump Organization also received smaller incentive payments in 2011, for a total of about $40,000, for energy-saving projects at two separate condominium buildings in Manhattan, according state records obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law.
Changes in federal policies by the Trump administration would not necessarily alter energy-efficiency subsidies in New York state. But Trump’s acceptance of them highlights the seeming dissonance between his use of environmental subsidies and incentives while at the helm of his sprawling business, and his administration’s public hostility toward financial support for clean energy and energy efficiency.
In the past, Trump has said he has tried to take every advantage of laws to help himself and his business. Amanda Miller, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, did not respond to questions about the clean-energy incentives. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
As a candidate and as president, though, Trump has advocated reducing environmental regulations. And there are concerns about the future of federal tax credits for energy-efficient buildings under Trump’s promised tax overhaul.
“Donald Trump’s own properties benefited from energy-efficiency upgrades, courtesy of successful clean-energy and climate change policies,” said Dave Anderson, a policy analyst at the Energy and Policy Institute, an organization that supports renewable energy and that has been tracking Trump’s use of energy-efficiency incentives.
“However, his incoming administration appears to be heading in a very different direction on clean energy and climate change,” Anderson said.
In documents filed in New York state, the Trump Organization is listed as the managing agency for the buildings that received the incentives. In the case of the Trump Tower at City Center, the real estate itself is owned by the developer, LC White Plains Residential II.
The retrofits that the Trump Organization made to the Trump Tower at City Center are especially advanced.
The building’s new power system, called a cogeneration system, traps thermal energy from two generators and uses it for the heating of air and water, said Larry Gomez, the property’s resident manager.
It installed energy-efficient hallway lights that are controlled by motion sensors and a cover on its rooftop swimming pool to minimize evaporation and to reduce pool-heating costs.
“It’s saved the building a fortune in energy costs,” Gomez said — about $300,000 a year.
Gomez said that though he had never spoken directly with Trump, he was commended by his bosses for his work on energy efficiency. He has received calls from managers at other Trump-branded properties for advice on energy efficiency, he said. (Trump Tower in Manhattan seems to be one of the properties in greatest need of energy-efficiency updates — it uses more energy than most comparable buildings in New York.)
Alan Neiditch, who has lived at Trump Tower at City Center for 11 years and heads the building’s board, said that each of the 200-odd units saved about $100 a month in utility costs during the spring and fall thanks to the retrofits, and more in the summer and winter.
He said some of the measures at the building, like the lighting controlled by motion sensors, felt like obvious steps for the building to take.
“In our opinion, it was way overlit,” Neiditch said.
For the installations, the Trump Organization received more than $280,000 in incentive money from the New York state Energy Research and Development Authority. A low-interest loan from the agency covered the rest of the approximately $1 million cost.
A 2013 case study by the agency estimated that the Trump property had reduced its energy use by 21 percent and that the project had paid for itself in just three years.
The agency declined to comment specifically on the incentives the Trump Organization had received. But Kate Muller, a spokeswoman, said the incentives played a “large role in New York’s aggressive, nation-leading energy goals, which look to build an energy system that is resilient, cleaner, and affordable for all New Yorkers.”
Gomez, a self-proclaimed student of the latest energy-efficiency technology, said he was not done trying to bring down the energy use at his Trump property.
“We’re wondering whether we have enough wind up here to put small wind turbines up on the roof area,” he said. “We might at some point look at doing something like that.”