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NYC’s Clean Energy Programs Take Center Stage

As Climate Week 2014 quickly approaches, all eyes are on New York City (NYC), the host of this year’s events. And given the recent release of New York’s progressive draft State Energy Plan, “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV), it is perhaps the most appropriate place to hold such discussions about how to create and implement low-carbon solutions. The REV’s goals to modernize the state’s utility regulatory structure, promote a cleaner and more resilient grid, and control rising customer costs, have set New York on course to become a national leader in clean energy policy. The steps NYC takes to support the REV’s goals will be critical not only in helping reform the state’s energy landscape, but also in setting the bar for other cities. Given its global prominence, NYC’s sustainability efforts will be watched, and mimicked, around the world.

A major focus of the REV is the expanded deployment of energy efficiency technologies. Reports by Consolidated Edison (ConED), the City’s largest electric utility, confirm that lack of awareness about energy efficiency programs is the largest barrier to program involvement for the commercial and industrial sectors. Fortunately, NYC can use its Clean Heat program, which has helped more than 5,000 buildings switch to cleaner fuels since 2011, as a model for improving awareness about efficiency opportunities. A similar platform of resources, which would aggregate information on financing, subsidies, contractors, and technologies in a single location, could increase energy efficiency upgrades in the City’s buildings, helping fulfill the REV’s goals.

Rooftop solar on a building in NYC. The city has tripled its solar power production by installing solar systems on the roofs of ten city buildings.

The REV also acknowledges the role that demand-side resources will – and have already begun to – play in meeting New York’s energy needs. A clear example of the type of program the REV promotes is ConEd’s recently filed Brooklyn Queens Demand Management (BQDM) proposal. The BQDM program aims to meet increased electricity demand in Brooklyn and Queens through the use of diverse technologies, such as batteries, distributed generation, and microgrids, at lower cost than building supply-side resources like new power plants. The BQDM proposal provides a unique opportunity for the City to partner with a local utility to help lower customer bills while improving resiliency.

Of course, strong leadership from the city’s climate- and energy-related public offices is crucial to ensure that these programs continue to be successful and provide leverage for future efforts. A handful of cities across the country have appointed sustainability officers to lead their municipalities’ clean energy programs, while NYC is currently without one. Establishing a dedicated position for a sustainability officer in NYC would be a visible and effective demonstration of the city’s support for the REV’s goals and its preparedness to take action to achieve these goals. A strong leader who can act as a visionary and shepherd innovative programs through the labyrinth of city policy will help save New Yorkers money while reducing emissions and improving resiliency.

This post was written by Energy Innovation’s Policy Analyst Robbie Orvis, and was originally featured on Energy Innovation’s blog page