By: Rory Christian, Director of New York Smart Power, and Mary Barber, Director of Smart Power Initiatives
It was only a year ago that the most devastating storm the Northeast has ever seen slammed into the region. Hurricane Sandy pummeled the states of New York and New Jersey, destroying homes and businesses and knocking out electricity for millions of families for days, weeks and – in some cases – months.
The unprecedented situation shined a much-needed spotlight on the vulnerability of our century-old energy infrastructure, placing the issue front and center for the region’s state and local leaders, electric utility companies and regulators, particularly as climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events. Utilities in the region have since begun to fortify flood-prone substations among other reinforcements to the power grid, but improvements that are ‘status quo’ are only part of the solution to future challenges.
Ensuring the adoption of technologies and policies that move the U.S. power grid into the 21st century, making it more resilient, flexible and smarter, can simultaneously accomplish today’s goals while preparing for future challenges – some of which may not yet be apparent. EDF is working closely with stakeholders to find innovative and pragmatic solutions to help modernize our aging energy infrastructure, an improvement that is crucial to resiliency, safety and storm recovery. Read More »
Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a Rebuilding Strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.” From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible. This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.
The Task Force is led by President Obama and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. The recommendations put forth in the report were developed with Governor Cuomo, Governor Christie, and a number of federal agencies and officials from across New York and New Jersey, representing an unusual opportunity to make changes that will help communities weather future crises.
This key idea – smarter, flexible energy – is central to resilience, safety and quick recovery in a storm, as well as reducing the harmful pollution linked to climate change in the first place. This has been a key theme of EDF’s efforts to help the Northeast region respond to Sandy.
When the power grid went down on most of New York City following Hurricane Sandy, a number of buildings were able to keep their lights on thanks to existing microgrids and on-site, renewable energy sources. The Task Force report lays out a path forward for taking these isolated success stories to scale and making these clean technologies available to everyone.
By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund
New Energy and Loan Performance Data Project Uses Latest in Data Science to Help Capital Markets Engage in Efficiency Lending
Environmental Defense Fund’s Investor Confidence Project (ICP) and the Clean Energy Finance Center (CEFC), in partnership with state and local lending programs, financial organizations and a range of additional stakeholders, are collecting, aggregating and analyzing loan performance and energy savings data from energy efficiency upgrades in residential and commercial buildings.
The Energy and Loan Performance Data Project represents the first concerted effort to combine data from some of the largest US energy efficiency programs in an attempt to develop an actuarially significant dataset to help engage the capital markets.
Nearly 40% of US energy is consumed by both residential and commercial buildings. Realizing all of the available cost-effective energy efficiency savings would require roughly $279 billion of investment, resulting in more than $1 trillion in energy savings over ten years. However, currently, only 1% of all US investments are made in energy efficiency projects. Our goal for this project is to help lay the foundation that will enable organizations to tap into this vast potential market.
One of the ways you can tell that in idea is gaining real momentum is by looking at the people being tapped to lead it. Last week, New Yorkers got a good idea how serious their leaders are about clean energy when the State Senate confirmed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s appointment of Audrey Zibelman, an internationally-recognized expert in energy policy, markets and smart grid innovation, to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC regulates the state’s public energy utilities, and once Ms. Zibelman assumes office, Governor Cuomo will designate her as chair of the PSC.
Ms. Zibelman was president and chief executive officer of Viridity Energy Inc., a pioneering smart power company she founded after more than 25 years of electric utility industry leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. Previously, Ms. Zibelman was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of PJM, the Regional Transmission Organization that operates the world’s largest wholesale electricity market and serves 14 states throughout the eastern United States.
Ms. Zibelman’s is not a symbolic appointment. It is a welcome sign of New York State’s commitment to building a smarter, modernized energy system that enables wider use of renewable energy and energy efficiency and offers greater resiliency to extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy. Change takes both leadership and expertise, and EDF believes that Ms. Zibelman will provide both. Read More »
Last Tuesday, I caught a ferry from the lower Manhattan waterfront (just south of the substation that shorted out so dramatically in the midst of Hurricane Sandy) to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his vision of a New York that will be far better able to withstand the battering from giant storms that, thanks to climate change, are likely to arrive with increased frequency and fury.
The Mayor began by noting some stark facts:
“We expect that by mid-century up to one quarter of all of New York City’s land area, where 800,000 residents live today, will be in the floodplain.”
“[Wi]ithin FEMA’s new 100-year flood maps there are more than 500million square feet of New York City buildings – equivalent to the entire city of Minneapolis.”
“About two-thirds of our major substations and nearly all the city’s power plants are in flood plains today.”
“A day without power can cost New York City more than a billion dollars.”
A lot of media attention in the wake of the speech focused on Bloomberg’s call for levees and seawalls to keep rising waters at bay. But embedded in the address was also an ambitious but practical rethinking of how New York City makes and uses energy. The plan frames a future in which solar, wind and microgrids play a much larger role in the city: Read More »
EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program takes to the airwaves
A lot has been happening with NYC Clean Heat lately. We have converted over 1,200 boilers to the cleanest available fuels and we have reduced over 150 tons of soot pollution, or particulate matter (PM2.5), from the air. That number is equivalent to removing over 800,000 light-duty passenger vehicles from the road for one year, or over 13 billion miles traveled!
And now we’re taking to the airwaves. We created a video to showcase our achievements and create a new outreach tool to propel us to our next accomplishment.
Source: NYC Clean Heat
To give you a little background, NYC’s Department of Health estimates that achieving our goal, reducing soot pollution by replacing highly-polluting No. 6 and No. 4 heating oils to the cleanest available fuels, will result in over 120 lives saved each year and prevent hundreds of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Approximately 1,500 buildings still need to complete conversions by the end of the year, and, roughly 2,000 permits for No. 6 oil are set to expire before March 2014, representing 232 tons of soot pollution. Here’s an astonishing fact – only 1% of all buildings in NYC use these heavily polluting heating oils, yet burning these oils creates more soot than all of the cars and trucks in NYC combined. The problem is grave, but the solution is within grasp. Read More »
Last month, I had the honor of watching NYC Mayor Bloomberg sign a bill tasking the New York City Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability to study geothermal energy resources and the feasibility of city-wide adoption of geothermal heating and cooling. As Mayor Bloomberg’s sustainability leadership – in an official capacity at least – comes to an end, his plans to ensure that the city’s mission to find sustainable, cost-effective solutions to combat air pollution are well underway. Though the geothermal heating and cooling bill is very important, it is only one aspect of the Mayor’s larger PlaNYC effort.
During his speech, Mayor Bloomberg remarked, “So what is geothermal anyway? I am having it installed in the new place I just bought and I know it works and how much it costs but nothing else.” His words sum up the greatest challenge for geo-exchange yet – lack of awareness. Geo-exchange technology needs our help to move it out of its prolonged infancy and into the mainstream. Read More »
NYC Clean Heat is halfway to achieving its goal of reducing harmful heating oil soot pollution in New York City by 50 percent by the end of 2013.
The NYC Clean Heat program experienced tremendous growth in 2012. The Mayoral announcement in June 2012 marked the official transition from the pilot phase to full implementation of the NYC Clean Heat program, which aims to clean the air in New York City by helping buildings convert from highly-polluting No. 6 and No. 4 heating oils to the cleanest available fuels. The heating oils used in one percent of New York City buildings create more soot pollution than all the cars and trucks in the City combined – that’s why upgrading these buildings to cleaner heating fuel is the single largest step New Yorkers can take to solve local air pollution.
The goal of NYC Clean Heat is to cut heating oil soot pollution in half by the end of 2013. NYC’s Department of Health estimates that achieving this goal will result in over 120 lives saved each year and prevent hundreds of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.
I’ve been a part of the NYC Clean Heat team for almost two years now, and I can tell you that I am floored by the progress we’ve made. For instance:
By the end of 2012, over 1,200 boilers – well beyond the number of conversions the regulations required – have switched to natural gas or ultra-low sulfur No. 2 (some of the cleanest available fuels), and over 2,000 additional boilers in line to convert.
These 1,200 conversions have resulted in over 150 tons of reduction of soot pollution, or particulate matter (PM2.5), which is equivalent to removing over 800,000 light-duty passenger vehicles from the road for 1 year. That’s over 13 billion miles travelled!
NYC Clean Heat won the 2013 Citizen Budget Commission’s Award for Public Service Innovation.
Why is all of this important? Approximately 1,500 buildings still need to complete conversions in 2013. Also, roughly 2,000 permits for No. 6 oil are set to expire before March 2014, representing 232 tons of soot pollution. Because this week is National Public Health Week, we are more aware than ever of what reducing air pollution in New York City will mean. NOW is the time to take action. Read More »
Last week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Carbon Visuals, a UK-based firm (brought to EDF’s attention by Power Angels) dedicated to “communicating carbon data more effectively,” were honored by American Clean Air Skies Foundation at their awards gala to commemorate videographers and web-based innovators for works that bring climate change and energy resources to mainstream media. Carbon Visuals produced a video, funded by EDF, which encapsulates, literally, New York City’s (NYC) carbon emissions in a year’s time. The video shows blue bubbles as they multiply and expand to cover NYC’s skyline over the course of an hour, day and year. It was designed to engage everyday people who use energy (which is everyone!), helping them to visualize the magnitude of carbon emissions emitted in order to better understand why we must act NOW to accelerate the transition to the clean, low-carbon energy economy we need to avoid climate catastrophe.
This visually impactful video was made possible with the support of NYC and its exemplary effort to track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The City of New York provided a report from September 2011, Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions, documenting the 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the principal contributor to man-made climate change – NYC added to the atmosphere that year. The building sector alone contributed approximately 75 percent of the emissions, with the bulk of the remainder attributed to the transportation sector. While these figures may seem irreversible, NYC and Mayor Bloomberg have made considerable strides to reduce emissions in one of the most energy-intensive cities in the world. For instance, emissions in 2010 were 12 percent less than 2005 emissions, and NYC continues to stay on track to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2017 – a commendable target.
A lot happened yesterday: Brooklyn Nets cheerleaders. Jay-z soundtrack. Kids dancing on stage. The new stadium at Barclays Center. Popcorn. Valentine’s Day. Mayor Bloomberg's birthday? Yes. But also his last State of the City speech.
In his speech and a small briefing in advance, he identified recent environmental wins: clean heat's 170 tons of soot per year gone so far, a 16 percent cut in GHG pollution since 2005, the monumental third water tunnel under city streets, new waterfront parks underway at Fresh Kills, Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Mindful of 320 days left in his term (this guy counts data), he announced some ideas that can get done now:
Electric vehicles. A network of charging units citywide with 30-minute charges — one third of NYC's taxi fleet to be electric. New York City could become a great place to charge a Tesla, a Leaf or a Volt. With traffic just behind heating oil as the main reason why some neighborhoods have unusually high pollution, that's a good idea for health and climate. It also opens a conversation about the electric grid that extends well past his term. Will those cars run on electricity created by solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, natural gas, coal? Here's an example of how to get it right: Pecan Street Inc.
Recycling. Expanded recycling for plastic, including those take-out containers so familiar to New Yorkers. And – an issue that’s getting a bit of press – ridding our city of styrofoam cups used in schools, delis and restaurants. This reminds me of EDF’s work with McDonald’s many years ago, getting rid of the Styrofoam clamshell.
Third, a citywide bike share program, to launch this summer. This could end up being one of the largest bike share programs in the world.
Equally interesting are some of the ideas not explicitly framed as "environmental," for instance:
A post-Sandy commitment to "rebuilding here," on the waterfront — but doing so sustainably, in a way that "keeps the lights on" in a storm. That will take unprecedented collaboration with state and federal policy makers, tech innovation, architecture and design and efficiency finance. A first step is to make sure that federal dollars flowing in to the region after Sandy are spent in a way that helps local communities make fully informed choices about not just “where” to rebuild, but “how” to rebuild.
And an idea that could reshape the skyline for a long time: "Midtown rezoning." Sound boring? Could be. But imagine midtown Manhattan with buildings that are far at the forefront of resilience and clean energy – taking full advantage of the latest technologies to generate clean electricity and waste as little as possible. Could Manhattan be the next Pecan Street? This is an opportunity not yet fully-seized. Read More »