New York City to Put Energy Plan into Action

On July 7, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the long-term action plan to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the city's municipal buildings and operations by 30 percent by 2017.

The long-term plan is a comprehensive guide to reducing the city's carbon footprint, through making city buildings more efficient, improving preventive maintenance, capturing energy potential at wastewater treatment plants, and more. The plan was developed by the Energy Conservation Steering Committee created by an executive order signed by the mayor in October, 2007.

"Our long-term plan will cut city government's annual output of greenhouse gases by nearly 1.7 million metric tons, which also will greatly improve air quality, and take a 220-megawatt bite out of peak demand for electricity," said Bloomberg. "We can achieve these results by using cost-effective existing technologies. The city is doing its part, I hope the private sector follows our example and finds conservation savings of their own."

City government accounts for approximately 6.5 percent of New York City's total energy usage and 10 percent of its peak electricity demand. The projects in the long-term plan will be partially funded by an annual commitment of 10 percent of the city's energy budget, which in fiscal year 2009 will be $100 million. In total, the plan will require an estimated $2.3 billion investment over the next nine years, of which roughly $900 million has been committed by the city, and another $80 million was already spent in fiscal year 2008.

Additional funding is being sought from external sources, including state and federal programs, private foundations, and through energy performance contracts. The city is expected to break even on its investment in 2013 on an annual cash flow basis, and by fiscal year 2015 it is projected that the city will have saved more on its energy bills than it has spent on all the planned investments to that point.

To meet its 30 percent reduction goal by 2017, the city must produce 1.68 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually versus 2006 levels. This will be achieved through an aggressive capital improvement program for the city's facilities and significant enhancements to its current operations and maintenance practices.

The largest single opportunity for reductions, 57 percent of the total, is through upgrades to existing buildings, like firehouses, police precincts, sanitation garages, offices, and courthouses. Planned improvements include upgrading facility lighting, refrigeration units, boiler upgrades office equipment, and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. There are other savings to be found in the way buildings are operated, including developing and implementing preventive practices in buildings that consume large amounts of energy. For example, leaking pipes, clogged steam traps, and inefficient air distribution, pumps, or fan systems will be systematically identified and repaired. The plan also includes retrocommissioning, a process that identifies the most wasteful inefficiencies that technicians can correct in a cost-effective manner.

Energy-saving projects at wastewater treatment plants account for the second largest opportunity for greenhouse gas reductions, 17 percent of the total. Wastewater treatment plants decontaminate sewage and stormwater runoff through a series of physical, chemical, and biological processes, and release the water back into the environment once it has been cleaned. These processes generate significant amounts of methane gas, one of the strongest greenhouse gas emissions sources. Projects in this group include fixing methane gas leaks, using recaptured methane to power electric generation equipment, and making general efficiency improvements to other specialized equipment.

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