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Bloomberg on Climate Change: Talk in Bali Backed by Action in New York

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Bloomberg on Climate Change:
Talk in Bali Backed by Action in New York

Addressing delegates at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, Mayor Bloomberg urged the world’s local governments to lead the way in reducing emission of greenhouse gases.  Bloomberg noted that municipal leaders have enormous influence over the earth’s climate since 80% of humanity’s greenhouse gases each year arise from cities.  While applauding initiatives such as the World Mayors and Local Government Climate Protection Agreement – a commitment by local governments from dozens of countries to cut emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 60-80% by mid-century – Bloomberg warned that “long-term targets can’t just become excuses for inaction.  We have to set targets, propose realistic plans to achieve them, and hold ourselves accountable to do just that.”

Mayor Bloomberg had earned the right to admonish his fellow mayors in Bali by having recently approved firm and specific measures to shrink New York City’s carbon footprint.  On December 5 Mayor Bloomberg signed legislation (Introductory Number 20-A) requiring New York City to use its best efforts to lower emissions of greenhouse gases 30% below 2007 levels by 2030.  Aiming to have government lead by example on climate change, the legislation specifies that the City must curtail carbon emissions from municipal buildings and operations 30% below 2007 levels by 2017.  Since government accounts for 6.5 % of New York City’s total energy use and 10% of peak demand, fulfillment of this target would make a sizeable dent in citywide carbon emissions.  At the bill’s signing ceremony Mayor Bloomberg argued that immediate emissions reduction will help avert “devastating consequences for the City in the future, including coastal flooding, contamination of drinking water, and even hotter summers.”

In the spirit of coupling targets with “realistic plans to achieve them,” concurrent with approving the above mandates Mayor Bloomberg introduced a “short-term action plan” of 132 energy-saving projects designed to begin greening city government (Table 1). The projects are dispersed throughout the five boroughs in all manner of public facilities and target all areas of City energy use. Following a PlaNYC proposal, the City will finance energy-saving investments with an annual commitment of 10% of the City’s annual energy expenditures.  This amounts to a commitment of $80 million in Fiscal Year 2008 (annual FY 08 energy expenditures are $800 million); the short-term action plan actually allocates only $67 million of this total.  Mayor Bloomberg described Wednesday’s plan as the prelude to a 10-year strategy for lowering municipal greenhouse gas emissions to be released on June 30 2008.

Of the plan’s 132 projects, 112 of them are intended to trim the amount of energy needed to light City buildings, streets, and highways.  Since energy consumption from lights creates about one-fifth of New York City’s CO2 emissions each year, emphasizing energy-efficient lighting in climate change prevention is sound policy.  The plan mostly seeks to improve the energy efficiency of interior lighting, for example replacing incandescent light bulbs with Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) that use a fraction as much electricity while lasting eight to ten times longer, or installing occupancy sensors to limit provision of artificial light during the daytime.  Measures targeting outdoor lighting all aim to provide the same brightness at lower wattage levels: for example replacing 100-watt mercury vapor lamps with 24-watt LED lamps on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Overall, the $44 million allocated to energy-efficient lighting upgrades amounts to 65% of the plan’s total outlays; the 25,000 metric tons of annual CO2 reduction from these upgrades accounts for 73% of the total projected carbon savings.

In addition to the lighting projects the short-term action plan’s projects vary considerably in their cost per metric ton of CO2 saved.  The cheapest emission reductions involve so-called Demand Side Management, such as variable transformers at 30 Department of Parks and Recreation buildings.  Variable transformers control the voltage entering a building supplying only what is necessary for current energy needs; the result is to constrain energy spikes and overall energy use.  The most costly emissions savings come from large infrastructure replacements such as a proposed energy-efficient centrifuge at the Department of Environmental Protection Hunts Point Waste Water Treatment Plant.  Also relatively expensive in terms of dollars per metric ton of CO2 saved are the current-year hybrid vehicles the city will introduce in place of trucks and SUVs throughout the city’s 27,000 municipal fleet.  Determining the exact per-metric ton cost of any CO2-saving investment depends on its life span; the longer new centrifuges and hybrids can remain in operation, the more affordable their high up-front costs will become.  Using the city’s assumption of a 10-year life span, Table 2 displays CO2-reduction costs for all categories of projects.

As noted above, the Mayor’s Short-Term Action Plan prefigures a 10-year strategy for shrinking City government’s carbon footprint, to be released in June.  The Mayor’s Energy Conservation Steering Committee – which includes representatives from the Office of Operations/Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, Economic Development Corporation, and other city agencies – is currently devising this long-term strategy under the chairmanship of Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler.  As details emerge of the Steering Committee’s proposals, Capalino+Company will do its best to disseminate this information to our clients.

Update: The recently announced “sustainability partnership” between the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) furthers the City’s investment in energy-efficient lighting.  By putting NYCHA into a CCI-organized purchasing consortium, this partnership enables the Authority to buy energy-efficient technologies at below-market prices.  A top item on the NYCHA shopping list is Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) that use less than one-fourth the electricity of traditional incandescent bulbs and last eight to ten times longer.  NYCHA aims to install an average of 7 CFLs per dwelling in place of existing incandescent bulbs; the Authority estimates these replacements will reduce overall electricity consumption of its buildings by 15% – resulting in both lower CO2 emissions and lower electricity bills for 408,000 moderate and low-income residents.

Table 1

NYC Carbon Footprint Reduction Projects for Fiscal Year 2008
Project Type # Proj. Cost  CO2 Savings (tons per year) % Total  Savings
Interior Lighting 81 $17,032,750 10407 30.62%
Interior “Lighting Plus” 27 $18,327,842 9504 27.96%
Heating 8 $3,175,000 1420 4.18%
Street/Highway Lighting 3 $7,933,977 4889 14.38%
Vehicle Pilot 3 $1,053,240 98 0.29%
BK Bridge Necklace Lighting 1 $500,000 134 0.39%
Chilled Water Conversion 1 $2,000,000 837 2.46%
Garage Exhaust 1 $50,000 171 0.50%
Hunts Point WWTP Centrifuge Upgrade 1 $1,500,000 130 0.38%
Owls Head WWTP Engine Generator 1 $4,500,000 2260 6.65%
Rikers Island Co-Generation 1 $3,800,000 1667 4.90%
Rikers Island Laundry Water Recycling 1 $1,800,000 1500 4.41%
Variable Transformers 1 $360,000 410 1.21%
Vehicle Replacements 1 $5,000,000 550 1.62%
Videoconferencing 1 $100,000 15 0.04%
Totals 132 $67,132,809 33992 100%

Table 2

Cost of CO2 Reduction in FY 08 NYC Carbon Footprint Strategies
Assuming 10 Years of Emissions Savings
Project Type $/Annual Metric Ton CO2 
Garage Exhaust $29.24
Variable Transformers $87.80
Rikers Island Laundry Water Recycling $120.00
Street/Highway Lighting $162.28
Interior Lighting $163.67
Interior “Lighting Plus” $192.84
Owls Head WWTP Engine Generator $199.12
Heating $223.59
Rikers Island Co-Generation $227.95
Chilled Water Conversion $238.95
BK Bridge Necklace Lighting $373.13
Videoconferencing $666.67
Vehicle Replacements $909.09
Vehicle Pilot $1,074.73
Hunts Point WWTP Centrifuge Upgrade $1,153.85
Average $197.50

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