Selected tags: Superstorm Sandy

One Year After Superstorm Sandy, Slow But Steady Progress Toward A Common Goal

Source: Iwan Baan

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 »

Posted in Climate, General, New York | Also tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

America’s Aging Energy Infrastructure Needs An Overhaul

No one likes being told “I told you so.”  But since DOE released its report last week, I’ve been tempted.

The report warns that the existing American energy infrastructure is highly vulnerable to climate change.  That increasing temperatures will stress the U.S. water system and enhance the likelihood of drought. That because conventional power plants require huge volumes of water to operate, lower water availability will mean less reliable power.  And that the changing climate will prompt more extreme and frequent storms, increasing energy demand due to extreme temperature changes and threatening our aging and already stressed electric grid with potential blackouts.

In essence, the affirms the many the calls-to-action that EDF and many other groups have been leading for years and the lessons we learned from Superstorm Sandy made painfully real and salient:  Our existing energy technologies and policies were designed for a 20th century climate.  To weather the extremes of a 21st century climate, we need to a 21st century energy system – one  that promotes energy efficiency, enables widespread adoption of homegrown, renewable sources of power and allows people to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs.

I have been very encouraged by President Obama’s recent movement on climate change, and the DOE report provides research backing the urgency of his Climate Action Plan.  Hopefully, this recent movement will translate into real national momentum, as our national approach to energy truly needs an overhaul. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Audrey Zibelman’s Appointment Strengthens New York’s Clean Energy Commitment

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 »

Posted in New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

NYC’s Storm Preparedness Means Rethinking How We Make And Use Energy

Source: Metamatic/Flickr

This commentary, authored by Andy Darrell, originally appeared on EDF Voices.

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 »

Posted in Climate, Energy Efficiency, New York, On-bill repayment | Tagged | Comments closed

Bloomberg's State Of The City Ideas Good For Health And The Environment

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 »

Posted in New York, Smart Grid | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Weathering The Storm Next Time: Gov. Cuomo’s NYS 2100 Panel Offers Smart Plan To Keep The Lights On, Emissions Down

Extreme weather and aging infrastructure came together with a vengeance in Sandy, showing the fragility of the basic systems that sustain this vibrant city and region. Like so many others, my family lost power, heat and water during Superstorm Sandy, and I watched out my window as a giant flash marked the moment that waters crested a 12-foot retaining wall at the 14th Street ConEd plant.

New Yorkers are all too familiar with the devastation that followed, and the disruption that spread far beyond the water’s reach. As the immediate crises are resolved, our attention is now on the complex challenge of long-term resilience.

One big step: The NYS 2100 Commission, a panel of experts assembled by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo back in November, just two weeks after the storm. EDF President Fred Krupp served on the commission, and our energy team prepared extensive recommendations on how to make our energy system more robust, resilient and adaptable. In yesterday’s State of the State address, he talked about the results.

As it turns out, some important solutions were right under our noses.

For example, amid the darkness and devastation, there were dozens of homes, businesses, even whole communities that kept their lights on and the water because they were designed to isolate breakdowns, heal quicker, and work with natural systems rather than against them.

Success stories were located across our region: 

  • Lights stayed on for sixty thousand residents of Co-op City in the Bronx thanks to a combined heat and power plant that can operate independent of the grid. Ditto the office tower at One Penn Plaza, an apartment building at 11 Fifth Avenue, and large parts of the campuses at Princeton and NYU. 
  • In Bayonne, NJ, the Midtown Community School used a combination of solar panels and a generator to offer a safe, warm place to stay for over 50 residents during the storm. 
  • On Long Island, the Villani family kept their lights on thanks to a 4.8 kw solar array that happens to have a battery bank. “We had friends and neighbors coming over to charge phones and batteries,” Stephanie Villani said. 
  • In lower Manhattan, the community group Solar one used solar panels to offer residents of Stuyvesant Town, the sprawling 35-building apartment complex, a place to charge their phones and computers.

Exceptions like these should be the rule next time. Unfortunately, today’s utility grid is set up to discourage more of these success stories – which are also cleaner and more efficient.

Source: Reuters

In fact, many buildings outfitted with fresh new solar arrays stayed dark thanks to cumbersome, outdated rules and regulations. Ironically, the solar panels were not making electricity when the grid was down, precisely because they were permanently connected to the grid and had to be shut down, rather than simply unhook when the larger system failed. So instead of sunshine, they were running on diesel power – if they were running at all.

Building a smarter grid, and encouraging clean, efficient ‘microgrids’ that provide islands of heat and light means fewer outages and faster recovery. A smarter grid would also have the intelligence needed to pinpoint outages, cordon off damage, and reroute power.

Clearing out the legal cobwebs and requiring utilities to unlock their grids more easily would make their systems stronger and more resilient in a crisis, and open the door for more efficient, renewable energy solutions. It would also open up opportunities for new ways to finance the upgrades needed to take full advantage of efficiency and renewables in today’s buildings.

(You can read EDF’s blueprint for a smarter, more robust grid here.)

Climate change means that higher sea levels and more extreme storms are the new normal. Unfortunately, some of this is already locked in. But we still have an opportunity to prevent the worst, most costly consequences by working together to reduce heat-trapping pollution. Superstorm Sandy reminded us of the need to prepare for a more challenging future. We need to make sure the steps not only protect against the impacts we can’t avoid, but also help prevent those we can.

Yes, we will have to fortify our buildings and infrastructure, change building codes and keep generators on hand in the face of extreme weather. But a lot of the steps we can take to keep the lights on during a crisis are also steps we can take to cut the pollution that is linked to climate change and extreme weather in the first place.

As we invest federal emergency dollars to rebuild, as we get ready for the next time – let’s make sure we’re taking every step that solves for both safety and less pollution at the same time. Efficiency, a smart grid, transparent information, renewables. Unlocking multiple benefits like these can help us rebuild better, faster and stronger. And lead the way for the world’s great cities, many of which are on the coast and in harm’s way just like New York.

My kids and I were lucky to weather the storm with just inconvenience. But as I think about how might live in a future New York City, I’d like to be sure that we’re doing everything we can now to run this town on safe, clean energy. The Cuomo commission report takes a big step in that direction: let’s join the Governor and the members of this commission in making its recommendations a reality. This is an opportunity that business, political and community leaders must not miss.

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Also tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed