NYC’s 10-Year Plan Sets New Standards for Other Cities
Last week, the day after the ‚ÄúPeople‚Äôs Climate March‚ÄĚ and right before the United Nations‚Äô Climate Summit, New York City‚Äôs Mayor de Blasio announced that the City is committing to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by the year 2050. This bold initiative, strongly supported by the City Council and a diverse network of community-based organizations, starts with the One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City‚Äôs Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future plan. A sweeping ten-year plan aimed at retrofitting New York‚Äôs public and private buildings in order to dramatically reduce the city‚Äôs contributions to climate change, while spurring major cost savings and creating thousands of new jobs for those who need them most.
This makes New York the largest US city to commit to the 80 percent reduction by 2050, in line with the IPCC‚Äôs recommended reduction target for climate stabilization, with currently approximately three quarters of the city‚Äôs greenhouse gas output stemming from energy expended to heat, cool and power its buildings. In particular, New York is poised to make direct investments to increase the efficiency of every single city-owned building, including schools and public housing, with any significant energy use which amounts to approximately 3,000 buildings. They will be retrofitted by or before the year 2025, with interim goals along the way.
Furthermore, New York City will spur private building owners to invest in building efficiency upgrades, with ambitious interim targets and incentives to catalyze voluntary reductions, while implementing mandates that trigger if such interim reduction targets are not met. This should lead to retrofits of tens of thousands of privately owned buildings. The plan is herewith not so much focused on the city‚Äôs large real estate owners and management companies, who already ‚Äúknow what this is about‚ÄĚ according to Bill Goldstein, a senior adviser to Mayor de Blasio, but rather on the numerous smaller building owners who need to be encouraged to embark on the retrofit journey.
In addition to the plan leading to considerable carbon emission reductions in the order of 3.4 million metric tons a year by 2025, the resulting upgrades should help protect many lower-income citizens from rising utility bills and stimulate demand for jobs in the construction and energy services sectors. ‚ÄúOne City: Built to Last‚ÄĚ therewith explicitly links building efficiency improvements to other key city goals of reducing social inequality and improving the local economy.
The plan has in short been informed by five key guiding strategies in order to achieve the greatest benefits from the efforts that will be put in, comprising:
1. Lead by example;
2. Empower New Yorkers to take action;
3. Hold New York City‚Äôs buildings to the highest energy performance standards;
4. Ensure benefits are shared by New Yorkers in every neighborhood; and
5. Use data, analysis, and stakeholder feedback to drive the approach.
Drilling further down into the actual measures proposed under the plan, a key aspect will be to expand and accelerate the City‚Äôs efforts to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy across its own municipal building portfolio. This will range from promoting deep energy retrofits or piloting new technologies on City-owned properties to investing in training opportunities for its workforce. Nonetheless, a thriving, self-sustaining private sector market for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy generation will be essential if New York City is to achieve its goals. Ample (real or perceived) market barriers currently prevent many building owners and decision-makers from taking action, even when it is in their economic interest. The City will therefore aim to play a key role in reducing or removing them, through gentle nudging or more decisive action.
Overall, New York City‚Äôs recently released ‚ÄúOne City, Built to Last‚ÄĚ ten-year plan sets a new standard for major cities aiming to pursue energy efficiency. The approach as put forward doesn‚Äôt rely on high tech-driven solutions such as e.g. the rollout of smart grids, but mainly on ‚Äėnuts and bolts‚Äô strategies to facilitate and accelerate building energy efficiency projects. Although the plan doesn‚Äôt spell out yet how exactly New York City will push the private sector to act in case voluntary action doesn‚Äôt result in the intended uptake, with some groups wary of leaving too much of the plan to market forces, this effort is a clear example of the concerted and decisive action needed from cities as the world‚Äôs key consumers of energy. Its straightforward and inclusive approach means that as the plan is being implemented many valuable lessons can likely be gained for replication in other megacities around the globe.
Renilde Becqu√© is an international sustainability consultant.
Energy Manager News
- Tesla‚Äôs Battery Storage Device Put to Use. Time to Exhale?
- Variable Speed Drives are a Powerful Efficiency Tool
- Veolia Checks Into the UK‚Äôs Tallest Hotel
- Massachusetts Aims for Critical Care Resiliency
- State of Michigan and MISO Propose Retail Capacity Charge
- Breaking the Ice with Thermal Energy Storage
- Ameresco to Upgrade Federal Prison in Butner, NC
- Alpen Introduces Window Package Rated at R10 Insulation