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Demand-Side Management Programs to Support New York's Climate Mobilization Act

Jessie Mehrhoff
Apr 30, 2019

Connected City 7

In the week leading up to Earth Day, the New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act by a 45-2 vote. Considered one of the most ambitious initiatives by any major city, the bill will target medium and large buildings over 25,000 square feet, requiring them to reduce emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. According to the New York City Council, the worst performing buildings will have to act by 2024 to curb their emissions and remain on target or face large fines. Large buildings constitute approximately 30% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the legislation is set to reduce emissions by the equivalent of 800,000 cars. Fortunately, at the more immediate disposal of large commercial and industrial (C&I) buildings are demand-side management (DSM) programs like energy efficiency and demand response (DR), which are growing across New York state.

Retrofitting New York’s Big, Beautiful Buildings

Energy efficiency programs are often lauded as low cost, readily initiated programs to generate energy savings; however, there is some concern that given the saturation of LED lighting, securing additional efficiency savings will hinder program cost-effectiveness.  To meet 80% reduction, however, New York City’s suite of large buildings will need to undergo much larger changes than replacing old light bulbs; many of the predicted savings are expected to come from large building retrofits. Mechanical upgrades and retrofits will accompany efficiency upgrades traditionally considered easier opportunities, making way for energy efficiency program implementers in the region to innovate high savings solutions that meet each building’s needs.

Growing Enrollment in DR Programs

Where efficient loads will help to reduce large building emissions, DR programs will provide another avenue by which to curtail energy use and secure cost-savings. New York has embraced DR through the state’s Reforming Energy Vision, and both utilities and the state’s independent system operator (NYISO) offer C&I DR programs to support large buildings’ savings.

In recent years, DR programs have seen success in New York:

  • The Brooklyn Queens Demand Management program successfully deferred a $1.2 million substation upgrade for the cost of $200 million, in part through targeted DR applications.
  • Con Edison launched a natural gas DR pilot program that targets sections of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens. This follows the proven capacity savings of electric DR programs in the city.
  • Large C&I buildings can enroll in economic DR programs offered through NYISO; often automated, these programs allow for site load curtailment in response to price signals from the grid. These programs help keep building costs lower while avoiding electricity generation from older, dirtier power plants.

Along with helping New York’s large buildings cut emissions, these programs can bring a variety of benefits to the customer including strengthened utility relationships, cost reduction or revenue, and assistance in meeting individual commercial sustainability goals.

DSM resources are available and will play a critical role in hitting emissions targets set under the Climate Mobilization Act. These programs can stand alone or help optimize other distributed energy resource technologies, like distributed renewables and storage, that might be components of large buildings’ strategies to hit their emissions reduction targets. If successful, the Climate Mobilization Act will help the city to move toward shutting down 24 natural gas plants, not to mention that it will make for a greener, cleaner New York City.