By now you might have heard the story. Andy Darrell and his fellow colleagues in EDF’s New York office were staring out the window of their office near Gramercy Park several years ago when they noticed thick plumes of black smoke rising from a nearby building. As New York regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund and a member of outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC Sustainability Advisory Board, it struck Andy that they could actually do something about it. Embarking on a plan that aimed to phase out the City’s dirtiest heating oils, the successful EDF-led NYC Clean Heat campaign was born.
This story officially entered New York City environmental lore when New York Magazine included it in the annual Reasons to Love New York issue as “Reason 19. Because Our Air Is the Cleanest It’s Been in 50 Years.” The recent article describes the public-private coalition of city officials, lawmakers, non-profits and private sector banks that came together for a $100 million financing program that would help building owners make the transition to cleaner fuels. The result: around 3,000 buildings have converted to cleaner fuels, which has been the primary driver in reducing sulfur-dioxide pollution by nearly 70 percent. Read More
By: Mark Franks, EDF Energy Research Intern
Hurricane Sandy proved that New York City’s energy system is not up to the challenges of the present day. And, as we have highlighted before, the city faces some major challenges to reducing dangerous air pollution caused by heavy heating fuels. One promising solution seeking to significantly reduce NYC’s carbon footprint, improve air quality, and increase grid resiliency during storms is geothermal heat pumps.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called ground source heat pumps the “most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.” Geothermal heat pumps or exchangers, also known as geo-exchange, require no fossil-fuel burning on-site, use 70 percent of their energy from Earth’s renewable sources and are, on average, nearly 50 percent more efficient than gas furnaces.
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
Source: CBS New York
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