As a major component in the New York City's ongoing goal of achieving 30% emissions reduction by 2030, Mayor Bloomerg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn heralded an ambitious six-point program.

Below are some highlights from the (lengthy) official press release. Note the summaries of the separate bills further down, covering a new City energy code, benchmarking, lighting upgrades and submetering, and the final bill addressing energy audits and retrocommissioning. The package also tackles financing and training.

(A more aggressive version of the bill, in terms of owner requirements and mandates, was rejected a few days earlier. At first blush, however, the final version looks pretty stout.)

- The six-point Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, introduced on Earth Day and enacted as part of PlaNYC, includes four bills that will dramatically reduce the City’s energy usage, saving consumers $700 million annually in energy costs, while creating 17,880 jobs and reducing New York City’s carbon footprint. In addition to the four pieces of legislation, the six-point plan includes two PlaNYC programs that will train workers for the new construction-related jobs that will be created, and help finance energy-saving improvements using $16 million in federal stimulus funding. The plan will also result in cleaner air, since pollution from boilers, furnaces, and local power plants will also be reduced.

- Approximately 80 percent of New York City’s carbon footprint comes from buildings’ energy use, and 85 percent of the buildings that exist today will be in use in 2030. As a result, increasing efficiency in existing buildings is critical to meeting the PlaNYC goal of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Once implemented, the legislation passed today will reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 4.75 percent, the largest reduction achieved by a single program.

The four bills passed include:

* Int. No. 564-A: Legislation that creates a New York City Energy Code that existing buildings will have to meet whenever they make renovations;
* Int. No. 476-A: Legislation that requires large buildings owners to make an annual benchmark analysis of energy consumption so that owners, tenants, and potential tenants can compare buildings’ energy consumption;
* Int. No. 973-A: Legislation that requires large commercial buildings (over 50,000 square feet) to upgrade their lighting and sub-meter tenant spaces over 10,000 square feet; and
* Int. No. 967-A: Legislation that requires large private buildings to conduct energy audits once every decade and implement energy efficient maintenance practices. Also, all city-owned buildings over 10,000 sq ft will be required to conduct audits and complete energy retrofits that pay for themselves within 7-years.

New York City Energy Code Bill

Currently, New York is one of 42 U.S. states using the standard energy code known as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). However, the New York State Energy Code includes a loophole that allows buildings to perpetuate non-compliant systems if they perform renovations on less than half of a given building system. This legislation creates a New York City energy code that requires all buildings to comply fully with the IECC for those portions of a system being renovated. This means any time a renovation takes place in one of the City’s one million buildings, this work must conform to a set of easily applied standards, a move which will lead our buildings to greater energy efficiency as renovations take place.

Benchmarking Bill

This legislation requires a benchmarking standard for all private buildings greater than 50,000 square feet or public buildings greater than 10,000 square feet. Benchmarking is the practice of evaluating a building’s energy efficiency so a building owner can see how efficiently their buildings function and enable prospective buyers and tenants to better assess the value of a building. Benchmarking provides the basis for empowering building owners to take steps towards minimizing energy use and maximizing the economic benefits of energy conservation. Building owners will be required to use a free online tool provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to track buildings’ annual energy and water consumption.

Lighting Upgrades and Sub-metering Bill

In New York City, lighting accounts for approximately 20 percent of the energy used in buildings and roughly 20 percent of a building’s carbon emissions. The legislation requires that lighting systems in commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet be upgraded to meet the requirements of the New York City Energy Conservation Code. Over the past few decades, there have been rapid improvements in lighting technology, which have resulted in a dramatic reduction of energy use. The bill also requires that large commercial buildings sub-meter electricity usage in certain large tenant spaces and that building owners provide these tenants with a monthly statement showing electric consumption and the amount charged for electricity. This addresses the majority of electricity use that takes place in tenant-controlled spaces.

Audits and Retro-Commissioning Bill

This legislation requires existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to undergo an energy audit and undertake retro-commissioning measures (e.g., properly calibrating heating and cooling systems, cleaning and repairing ventilation systems) once every ten years. This bill would apply to all classes of buildings over 50,000 square feet and cover nearly half of the built square footage of New York City. The bill contains exemptions for buildings that face severe financial hardship. To lead by example, City buildings will also perform any building retrofits (capital improvements) that pay for themselves within 7 years.

Green Workforce Development Training

To address the increased demand for energy auditors, contractors, construction workers, and other related professionals, the City has been working with key stakeholders in the labor and real estate sectors, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, City University of New York, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to identify the workforce needs and opportunities created by the legislation. This will ensure that there is an adequate supply of skilled technicians to implement the legislation. The legislation will be a key economic driver in the green economy, creating an estimated 17,880 construction-related jobs as part of the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.

Green Building Financing

Retrofits pay for themselves, reduce utility bills and improve buildings’ financial health. However, some owners may not have the ability to finance these improvements upfront. To begin to assist owners, New York City will establish a revolving loan fund using $16 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Energy savings data will be collected to encourage private sector lending in the long-term.

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