The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has launched a federally funded mechanism to help schools and small businesses across the state repair and replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, plumbing fixtures, and certain appliances.

More than $135 million of the $180 million allocated in the Schools and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program will be earmarked for the Garden State's most underserved communities, according to NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso.

Fiordaliso said many of the eligible locations are within older cities where infrastructure has aged without being adequately updated.

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"I find it much more exciting, since it is focusing on underserved communities and providing what I believe is more equity," he said.

And not only are these systems out of date in many cases, according to Fiordaliso, but they also may not meet modern efficiency or health standards.

"When you talk about the water, we're talking about conservation. Water uses the most energy, by the way, of any other industry," he said. "If they're old cities, the pipes have to be old, one would assume. So it's important that we rectify as much of this as we possibly can."

The program was drawn up based on legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in August, and backed by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Sen. Troy Singleton, and Assembly members Wayne DeAngelo, Thomas Giblin, and Pamela Lampitt.

While the timeline under which each individual school or business will carry out these repairs will vary, NJBPU plans to begin approving applications by Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Fiordaliso said quick action is needed to bring these buildings and their communities up to speed — and up to code.

"We have to attack climate change from many different directions if we're going to be successful, and we have to include every segment of our population if we're going to be successful," he said.

To apply for the HVAC or plumbing programs, contact NJBPU through its web page.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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