As New York City grows, meeting sustainability objectives will become more challenging. Our businesses and lifestyles, the engines of our economy and the products of our creativity, also require increasing amounts of energy, most of which is still derived from carbon-intensive fossil fuels. Continuing combustion of fossil fuels compromises our air quality—adversely affecting vulnerable populations and neighborhoods—and our ability to reduce our emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that result in global climate change. In addition, the energy infrastructure is becoming increasingly strained under the weight of a growing population, aging infrastructure, and changes in climate. In the face of this, the City has committed to reducing its GHG emissions 80 percent by 2050 from a 2005 baseline (“80 x 50”). A fundamental reconfiguration of the energy supply system is required to achieve this ambitious goal.
The City is focusing its efforts in six areas that represent a holistic perspective of the energy supply system. Particular attention will be paid to the interactions among the focus areas as well as their influence on the buildings, transportation, and solid waste sectors for a systems approach. In addition, the City recognizes that much of our current energy supply lie beyond the geographic boundaries of the city and the barriers to cleaner generation lie beyond the autonomous control of the City. However, improvements made to the energy supply system in the city will translate into much broader benefits. It is the intent of the City to leverage its scale in order to provide the underpinnings necessary to bring farther-reaching change. Therefore the City will take a regional approach in its energy supply strategy and partner with other municipalities, utilities, transmission owners, generators, and energy services companies, as well as State and Federal regulators, in order to achieve significant GHG reductions.
In-city power generation facilities are aging—76 percent of the facilities are over 40 years old. Replacing older generators represents a significant opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce GHG emissions, improve air quality, and maintain high levels of reliability and resiliency. However, current market rules do not value such externalities. We must work with the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO, manager of the bulk power system), regulators, and suppliers to change the market rules to value these benefits and provide incentives for newer, cleaner generators. The City will work with other market participants, NYISO, and State and Federal regulators to eliminate the barriers to entry that now exist.
Expanding the penetration of renewable energy has been a cornerstone of City energy policy for many years. The City supports State efforts to refine the approaches used to incentivize renewable energy development. In addition, the City supports the Public Service Commission’s recommendation in a recent order that “grid-scale renewable resources must be strategically developed to diversify the energy supply mix, hedge the volatility of fossil fuel prices and decrease greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions."
The city’s density makes it difficult to site large-scale renewable energy in close proximity to the largest load center in the state. Offshore wind represents one of the best opportunities to do so. The City will work to increase the amount of wind power supplied from the region. It will also work closely with key stakeholders to enhance the viability of large-scale wind projects by increasing demand, lowering costs to meet market electricity prices, and advocating for financial assistance.
Community projects offer the opportunity to meet the needs and priorities of a given neighborhood while avoiding centralized infrastructure costs related to growth and maintenance, increasing renewable energy integration and decreasing the city’s GHG emissions. Through community energy planning founded upon stakeholder engagement, we can better meet the needs of neighborhoods and develop strategies that focus on what is most important to a community, such as increasing resiliency in the event of extreme weather, creating more affordable energy by allowing more direct control over energy rates, or integrating renewable energy generation through programs such as community shared solar. The City can align its objectives around sustainability, resiliency, equity and growth with a neighborhood’s specific needs.
The City will help coordinate and facilitate community scale generation supported by major enabling regulatory shifts at the State level. The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is also promoting community microgrid development through the “Reforming the Energy Vision” initiative. A microgrid is an energy system specifically designed to meet some of the energy needs of a group of buildings, a campus, or an entire community using local facilities that generate electricity, heating, and/or cooling; energy storage; energy distribution and management; and grid isolation during an outage. The PSC also issued and made effective an order establishing a Community Distributed Generation Program to make solar and other forms of clean distributed generation available to utility customers who cannot access that generation directly. For example, through community shared distributed generation, multiple customers who are unable to host distributed generation can purchase a portion of the electricity produced at a single generation facility.
The City can use community-scale distributed generation to advance its renewable energy goals. The City has committed to install 100 MW of solar capacity on City-owned rooftops over the next ten years and to promote the installation of 250 MW of solar energy on rooftops and in communities throughout New York City. The City also intends to install a 12 MW combined heat and power plant at a wastewater treatment plant in Manhattan. These initiatives demonstrate the City’s commitment to clean distributed energy, both at the community and individual levels.
Bottlenecks in the transmission system from energy generated in western and northern
New York to the lower Hudson Valley and New York City restrict the ability of the city to rely on renewable energy generated in other parts of the state. The City will work with its neighbors and State agencies to develop solutions to transmission bottlenecks through transmission modernization, new facilities, and smart transmission technology. Smart grid technologies can also enable greater integration of renewable and distributed generation technologies and allows consumers to better manage consumption, helping to reduce both peak and total energy loads.
The City will integrate transmission and distribution needs into its re-zoning planning process. The City recognizes that there are areas within its geographic boundaries that lack the required energy infrastructure to support significant development over the long-term. The City will engage Con Edison, the local transmission and distribution owner, in its long-term planning process to ensure investments in energy infrastructure are in tune with and support community development plans.
There is a growing reliance on gas-fired generation due to current (and projected) low natural gas prices, as well as policies and programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that promote cleaner generation. The portion of New York State’s generating capacity from gas and dual fuel (gas and oil) facilities has grown from 47 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2015. Currently, over 70 percent of all proposed generating capacity in New York State is either natural gas or dual fuel power projects.
The increased demand for natural gas extends beyond the power generation sector. For instance, since the NYC Clean Heat program was launched in 2011, there have been more than 5,000 building conversions in New York City from heavier forms of heating oil to cleaner fuels, with a significant portion of these conversions involving a switch to natural gas. However, the prospect of natural gas supply disruptions and the need for deeper GHG reductions illustrate the need to develop large-scale renewable energy coupled with energy storage in order to both achieve deep carbon reductions as well as enhance fuel diversity for reliability purposes.
Rather than thinking of waste as something to be disposed of, resource recovery calls on us to view waste as a resource that can continually provide value. There are well known examples of this, such as composting food waste to produce rich fertilizer, or the use of collected rainwater watering lawns and gardens rather than sending the water directly to storm drains. Outputs from human and industrial processes can be thought of as inputs into other processes. Thinking of waste in this way can provide economic, environmental and social benefits.
There are also many opportunities to recover resources from our liquid and waste streams for energy generation. Recognizing that wastewater is a renewable resource, opportunities to recover resources at the City’s 14 wastewater treatment plants (“WWTPs”) with an aggregate dry weather design flow of 1.8 billion gallons per day abound. Adding another dimension to this paradigm is the diversion of organic waste (i.e., food scraps) from the municipal solid waste stream and other high strength wastes (e.g., glycol in deicing fluids, brewery whey) for treatment through anaerobic digestion. This strategy connects the City’s goals for investing in clean, affordable renewable energy and reducing waste sent to landfills. The combination of the City’s WWTPs and organic waste produces enough biogas to meet between 60 and 70 percent of the city’s electrical demand and more than their entire thermal demand.
The use of waste heat from secondary sources can also be recovered for its energy value. For example, ground source heat pumps can take advantage of stable, elevated ground temperatures in the winter to provide an efficient form of thermal heat. In addition, combined heat and power systems both generate power and thermal energy which can be used for other needs. For instance, industrial and commercial activities are also a source of waste heat; waste heat from a data center can be harvested and shared with a neighboring building through hydronic heating systems. The capture and productive use of waste heat is an example of New York City’s commitment to reducing waste in all its forms.