This week, Mayor Bloomberg released a plan for preparing New York City for the next major hurricane. Given the extensive and lengthy power outages following Hurricane Sandy, you would think alternative energy sources would feature somewhat prominently in the plan. However, the section on Utilities focuses mostly on fortifying existing energy infrastructure.
The plan does put forth one goal for expanding the city’s distributed generation projects, such as cogeneration plants and PV installations. The city will also work with CUNY’s Smart DG Hub to study how solar could be used during blackouts, and will conduct research on micro-grids.
Sustainability and the environment were a major focus of Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City address last week. According to Bloomberg, the city has cut its carbon footprint by 16 percent in the last five years, and the goal is to reduce it by an additional 30 percent in the next 10 years.
One of the initiatives announced in the mayor’s speech was a big push for electric vehicles. In addition to a city pilot program for ultra-fast curbside charging stations, Bloomberg wants to add 50 electric cars to the city’s fleet and switch over a third of the taxi fleet to electric by 2020. He also plans to change the city’s building code to make up to 20 percent of new public parking spaces in private developments EV-compatible, which he said would add 10,000 parking spots for electric vehicles in the next seven years.
The New York League of Conservation Voters has released a policy agenda called “Blueprint for a Greener New York City.” Covering energy, transportation, parks, water, food and waste, the document outlines what the organization hopes Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council will accomplish before the end of their terms in 2013.
On the topic of energy, the city has already or is in the process of carrying out most of NYLCV’s recommendations. Reducing the carbon footprint of new and existing buildings has been set in motion by the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan and the initial successes of the Green Codes Task Force. PlaNYC has been working to phase out dirty heating oils. And progress has been made on developing tidal energy technology in the East River and installing PV on city-owned buildings. If our elected officials continue to prioritize these initiatives, NYLCV’s goals seem easily attainable.
Recently, the city released a 5-year progress report for its PlaNYC environmental and energy initiative. While some progress had been made on the program’s renewable energy goals, much still remains to be done. First, the good news. The city has installed 648 kilowatts of PV on government-owned buildings, and recently issued an RFP for a combined solar and wind project at the Fresh Kills landfill. With CUNY as a partner, the city launched the NYC Solar Map that allows residents to figure out if their rooftops are right for PV. A 15-megawatt cogeneration plant is under construction at Rikers Island. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electrical power have decreased since 2007.
On the other side of things, energy use per capita has not changed in the past five years. Of PlaNYC’s 10 goals to “foster the market for renewable energy in New York City,” two have not been started and the rest are still “in progress.” The city has yet to look at ways that consumers could pool together to purchase renewable energy, or work with energy companies to measure greenhouse gas offsets when purchasing renewable energy credits. Officials tout the city’s role in supporting the Long Island Offshore Wind Project, but the turbines are years away from coming online. Though it is in the works, the city hasn’t come out with a “one-stop” website for solar permit application and tracking. Overall, there is much the city still must accomplish by 2030.
Last Thursday I attended an event at Cooper Union called “Hydro-Fracking for Natural Gas: How This ‘Clean’ Fuel Technology Threatens Our Water, Our Health, Our Landscapes and Our Energy Future” about drilling for gas in the Marcellus shale in upstate New York. I didn’t really need to be convinced of what a horrible idea this would be, but after listening to some of the speakers I’m even more adamant that the state should put a stop to the idea before it can go any further.
Kevin Bone, director of the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, called the drilling “the Love Canal of our time,” stating that it posed the most serious threat to New York City’s drinking water supply ever (90 percent of the city’s water supply comes from the region where gas companies want to drill).
These are some interesting articles I read recently:
Here’s the latest news on green energy in New York: