NYC's Blueprint for Energy Efficiency: a big, bold plan to cut pollution

Thu, 2018-08-16 16:45 -- Doug Peeples

New York City is special in a lot of ways. With a population of more than 8 million, it's the largest city in the U.S. by far. And buildings over 25,000 square feet cover almost 60% of the city's building area.  So it makes sense that a city with an established track record for its energy policies and other efforts to mitigate as well as accommodate climate change would focus on ways to continue improving the efficiency of its large buildings. The story below shares highlights from the recently released Blueprint for Energy Efficiency, a series of proposals developed by a broad range of stakeholders led by the Urban Green Council (UGC), the New York affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council, a Smart Cities Council Advisor. The key takeaways for other cities? The blueprint was an intensely collaborative effort and one intended to be both realistic, flexible and inclusive. — Doug Peeples

The blueprint is a very big, ambitious plan. It would have to be to accommodate the city's 50,000 large buildings, the structures that are responsible for 67% of the city's emissions.

And it addresses GHG reductions through improved with both short-term and long-term strategies. Initially, the blueprint calls for a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030 and the overall goal is an 80% reduction by 2050.

The collaborative effort to develop the blueprint, referred to as the 80x50 Buildings Partnership, includes more than 70 representatives from  a variety of sectors: government, labor, non-profits, energy companies and energy efficiency organizations, real estate, environmental groups (including Smart Cities Council Advisors the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund), academia and more.

Why more needs to be done
NYC's energy policies and codes have reduced emissions from large buildings 14% since 2010. But as the blueprint explains in its introduction, "The pace of these efforts must accelerate to achieve the city's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Getting there will require more than what existing regulation and voluntary, market-driven decisions will deliver. We need a bigger down payment on this transformation: a world-leading energy performance policy to drive efficiency in our large buildings. Collaboration is key for a policy of this scale."

What needs to be done
The blueprint includes 21 separate proposals to accomplish the 80x50 goal. Here are some of the key proposals:

  • Develop a "made-in-New York City" metric to set realistic emissions targets at the building level.
  • Focus on and require more from less efficient buildings.
  • Lead by example. City-owned buildings would be expected to reach their 20% emissions reduction goal five years before the 2030 deadline.
  • Expand services and financing support for building owners to make it easier and less expensive for them to comply.
  • Require less from rent-stabilized housing to keep rent increases down.
  • Shorten the city's heating season to correspond to warmer and earlier spring temperatures.
  • Reduce the burden of façade inspections for buildings with good track records.
  • Identify and be flexible enough to accommodate special cases, such as rent-stabilized and affordable housing.
  • Facilitate access to tenant spaces for retrofits to accelerate upgrades.

It should be mentioned that the blueprint isn't considered a finished policy at this point. The Buildings Partnership will continue to meet throughout the legislative process.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.