In New York City, nearly 75 percent of GHG emissions come from energy used in buildings. As energy efficiency is the largest piece of the GHG emissions reduction solution, improving energy efficiency in buildings is a priority. Under the City’s plan to reduce citywide GHG emissions 30% by the year 2030, increasing the efficiency of its buildings is projected to reduce emissions by 12.7 million metric tons—or roughly two-thirds of the total reduction needed. Achieving this target requires a comprehensive program focusing on existing buildings, given that 85 percent of the city’s 1 million buildings will still be standing in 2030. Because the City’s largest buildings measuring over 50,000 square feet in area, constitute nearly 45 percent of citywide energy consumption, and the management of these large buildings tends to be more sophisticated and concentrated among fewer individual entities, many of the City’s programs began by addressing these large buildings to achieve the highest impact results.
In 2007, New York City released a comprehensive sustainability plan, PlaNYC, to reduce citywide GHG emissions by 30 percent by 2030. To meet this goal, the city enacted the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (GGBP), a set of energy efficiency laws that are focused on providing the City’s largest buildings with the information they need to make informed decisions about their energy use. The laws focus on the city’s largest properties measuring over 50,000 square feet in area, which constitute 2 percent of all properties, but 45 percent of city GHG emissions. For these buildings, the policies require an annual benchmarking of energy and water use with public disclosure; an energy audit and retro-commissioning every ten years; for non residential spaces, upgrades for lighting to meet the energy code, the installation of electrical meters or sub meters for large tenant spaces; and an Energy Conversation Construction Code that applies to all new building and renovations. The GGBP also mandates higher efficiency standards for new construction and retroactively requires large commercial spaces to upgrade lighting by 2025.
The City also launched the NYC Carbon Challenge in 2007 as a voluntary program for universities and hospitals committed to reducing building-based emissions by 30 percent in ten years. Since then, the City expanded the Carbon Challenge to include commercial offices in 2013, and most recently, under current Mayor Bill de Blasio, also expanded the Challenge for multifamily buildings. The requirements of the GGBP gave participants in the Carbon Challenge a head start in measuring their energy use and emissions and planning for their carbon reductions—demonstrating a practical application of translating energy use data resulting from the GGBP into action on the part of private building owners.
While the primary goal of two programs is GHG emissions reduction, the benefits go far beyond. By reducing an estimated five percent of GHG emissions, net savings from GGBP is projected to result in as much as $7 billion . Moreover, building owners will benefit from energy savings, and air quality and public health will be improved by reducing air pollution. Lower demand for electricity will also make citywide electrical systems more reliable, while reducing living and operating costs from reduced utility bills.
The NYC Carbon Challenge will supplement these benefits as participating private sector organizations reduce emissions. The City promotes this private sector participation through leadership recognition and community engagement. Already, a majority of participants have reduced their emissions by 15% or more, and six institutions have already achieved the 30% goal in less than half the time allotted for the Challenge. All together, participants are projected to reduce their emissions by more than 600,000 metric tons by the end of the Challenge, reducing citywide emissions by nearly 2%.