Aligning New York for Renewable Energy Action

Calling for New York City to develop an energy-shortage contingency plan, this report by Dan Miner, energy committee chair for the Sierra Club NYC Group and coordinator of Beyond Oil NYC, states that NYC is not adequately prepared for sudden fuel volatility.

The 50-page report, called Moving New York City toward Sustainable Energy Independence — How Creation of an Energy Shortage Plan will Prepare the City for Energy Price Volatility and Accelerate the Long-term Transition to Energy Sustainability — recommends that the Mayor’s long-term plan prepare for energy price shocks, and move the City toward sustainable energy independence.

The report reviews key areas of vulnerability and outlines ways to prepare City government, staff, business community, and the public on energy conservation measures that could be implemented instantly, and incorporate renewable energy where applicable.

A few of the campaign partners that have endorsed the report include Asthma Free School Zone, Build It Green NYC, Carbon Tax Center, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility – Energy & Environment, Lower East Side Ecology Center, NY Divinity School, New York Public Interest Research Group, The Pace Energy Project, Sustainable South Bronx, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and The Gaia Institute.

Summary from Report

Fuel prices have been stable and low, but we’re entering an era in which prices are rising and will be more volatile. As we’ve learned from the oil shocks of the 1970s and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, prices can skyrocket when even small amounts of oil are taken off the market. And with rising energy demand, accelerating fuel depletion, decreasing spare production capacity, and heightened political instability, oil price shocks are inevitable.

Our use of oil is now widely described as an addiction, and energy independence is increasingly recognized as the solution. Both short-term and long-term efforts to conserve energy and develop alternate fuel supplies are necessary if we are to begin moving New York City and the U.S. toward energy independence. Long-term transitions have been the focus of discussion until now, but an international crisis or natural disaster could trigger a fuel price shock tomorrow. Planning for the City’s long-term sustainability should anticipate such disruptions.

This report will lay out a roadmap of pragmatic steps towards a sensible energy future, starting with creation of an energy shortage contingency plan, briefly considered by the City Council in 2004. Similar plans are being created now in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco. By addressing this issue, New York City can be a national leader in energy preparedness. Within long-term efforts to make the City more sustainable are initiatives that can conserve energy in a hurry. By prioritizing them for prompt implementation, the same investments also buy greater resiliency in the face of temporary disruption.

City agencies, civic groups and businesses working together on the plan will find where to cut energy costs while boosting green manufacturing and service sectors, slowing global warming, and paving the way for next steps toward sustainability. Local advocates have already identified a host of innovations for using energy more efficiently in transportation, buildings and urban design. Transportation accounts for most fuel use. Initiatives to increase use of mass transit and reduce reliance on cars will enhance our comfort and air quality, while making the City more resilient to fuel price shocks. Support is growing for more express bus routes, changing street parking rates, and congestion pricing. Maximizing regional use of electric streetcars, rail networks and buses would reduce car use even further.

Making new buildings more energy efficient will cut fuel use and costs, but for big savings we need to retrofit the enormous stock of older buildings. Simple acts such as caulking cracks, replacing old refrigerators, switching to high efficiency lights, tuning up boilers, and installing solar water heaters can lead to significant energy savings. When a concentrated public education campaign combines them all, as is being done on an entire block in the Lower East Side, energy savings of 30% can be achieved.

Right now, solar and wind provide only a tiny fraction of our electricity needs. Lots of small solar electric and thermal power systems on top of houses and buildings, and larger solar and wind systems in rural areas can take pressure off our overstretched electric grid. To grow the renewable energy market in New York, we need to expand net metering, which allows owners of these systems to both use and produce electricity on the utility grid.

To implement the massive changes needed in our national energy economy, visionary Federal leadership is essential. The Boxer-Sanders bill, perhaps the most effective of the climate change bills in Congress today, deserves support as an initial step. Yet it and other measures being considered don’t go far enough. A plan that does is Energize America, whose twenty points enable the U.S. by 2020 to reduce both oil imports and greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, generate 25% of our electricity from renewable sources, create 2,000,000 new energy-related American jobs and save 1,000,000 at-risk automobile industry jobs. New York City’s leadership will help make it happen.

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