Environment News Service (ENS)

Shrinking New York City`s carbon footprint


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

St. Mary's Recreation Center in the Bronx was the first indoor recreation facility to open in New York City in 1951. Now the aging building is about to receive energy-saving retrofits to fix outdated heating and cooling systems, insufficient ventilation, and windows and doors that leak heat in the winter and cooled air in the summer. The New York City Parks Department facility is just one of the many municipal buildings that will be modernized under a $2.3 billion nine-year plan to reduce the carbon footprint of New York City.

The projects in the plan will be partly funded by an annual commitment of 10 percent of the City's energy budget, which in fiscal year 2009 will be $100 million.

Firehouses, police precincts, sanitation garages, offices, and courthouses will all be repaired and retrofitted with the goal of energy-efficiency. Upgrades are planned for lighting, refrigeration units, boiler upgrades office equipment, and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems.

The city will expand on-site electricity generation at city facilities with solar panels and combined heat and power systems known as cogeneration.

Street lighting fixtures will be replaced with models that maintain equal lighting levels, but use one-third less wattage. City procurement officials will accelerate the purchase of more energy efficient vehicles.

The plan was developed by the Energy Conservation Steering Committee created by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Executive Order last October and chaired by Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler.

Mayor Bloomberg visited St. Mary's Rec Center Monday to present his administration's detailed long-term plan. It calls for making municipal buildings more efficient, improving preventative maintenance, and capturing energy at wastewater treatment plants, among other measures.

The goal is to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings and operations by 30 percent by 2017, as promised in PlaNYC, Bloomberg's plan 'for a greener, greater New York,' unveiled on Earth Day 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 Mayor 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,' the mayor said.

The largest single opportunity for reductions, 57 percent of the total, is through upgrades to existing buildings and there are more savings to be found in the way buildings are operated.

Preventive practices in buildings can save large amounts of energy. Leaking pipes, clogged steam traps, and inefficient air distribution, pumps, or fan systems will be systematically identified and repaired.

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 methane gas, one of the greenhouse gases more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide, the predominant heat-trapping gas.

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.

The upgrades will help shrink New York's energy consumption, but not by much. City government accounts for about 6.5 percent of New York City's total energy usage and 10 percent of its peak electricity demand.

'This plan is the most in-depth and comprehensive ever look at the energy used by the city, which is the largest property manager in the city, as well as the operator of the largest municipal vehicle fleet in the nation,' said Skyler.

'We have identified a number of ways to make real energy savings, and the investments we make today will start paying for themselves immediately, and be fully recouped in just a few years,' the deputy mayor said.

Environmentalists greeted the plan with cautious optimism. 'Especially during this period of high energy costs, deploying energy efficient lighting, air conditioning, motors, and office equipment, along with improved Operations and Maintenance, makes economic sense and it is to the City's credit and Mayor Bloomberg's leadership that existing public buildings will be showing the way,' said Ashok Gupta of the of the Natural Resource Defense Council.

'Today's announcement confirms that significant reductions in energy usage to achieve the 30 percent reduction requirement in global warming pollution by 2017 is not only achievable but it will also save taxpayers money,' he said.

But now the city must deliver on its promises, Gupta said, 'The public is watching.'

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