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February 14, 2017

Energy Audits and Retro-Commissioning Reduce New York City GHG Emissions

By Saverio Grosso, CEM, CEA, EBCP

Today, energy audits and retro-commissioning are widely recognized as effective ways to help lower a buildings energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions. But it has taken time and persistence to get to this place. It was nearly a decade ago, but the conversations that occurred that day would go on to shape the energy engineering landscape for New York City in a drastic way. Sitting in that small conference room with the ambitious team from the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, along with other consultants, we began discussing an approach to develop legislation around assessing buildings and identifying energy efficient measures that could yield cost savings while also achieving the carbon reduction goals set forth in the city’s Mayor at the time, Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030. After months of discussions around methodology, metrics, industry best practices and guidelines, and the practical application of these services, the City Council passed the legislation known as Local Law 87 of 2009.

Energy Audits and Retro-Commissioning Lower GHG Emissions for NYC-owned Buildings

This new law mandated that buildings over 50,000 gross square feet undergo periodic assessments with the intent of informing building owners of their energy consumption through energy audits, which are surveys and analyses of energy use, and retro-commissioning, the process of ensuring correct equipment installation and performance. The goal was to give building owners a much more robust understanding of their buildings’ performance, which would eventually shift the market towards increasingly efficient, high-performing buildings. Recently awarded a 3-year contract to conduct Energy Efficiency Technical Services, ENERActive Solutions, an EDISON ENERGY® Company, is proud to partner with the City in achieving these goals.

As expected, the first few years were somewhat challenging with misunderstandings around requirements and project needs. However, through various marketing and outreach programs, along with the successful completion of hundreds of projects, owners and building managers have a greater appreciation for the LL87 process. For many, no longer is LL87 considered just a mandated requirement but rather it is viewed as an invaluable tool towards improving building operation and achieving real energy savings.

It was clear from the beginning that the City wanted to be at the forefront of the effort to achieve the carbon reduction goals. New York City owned, operated and managed buildings are responsible for three-quarters of the City’s total GHG emissions and, from the onset, the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) agreed to take a leading role in addressing the problem of global climate change by conducting LL87 energy audits and retro-commissioning projects throughout their vast portfolio of city buildings.

In September 2014, Mayor DeBlasio announced that New York City committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by 2050, starting with One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City’s Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future. The goal of the plan was to “make our public buildings models for sustainability” through investing in high-value energy efficiency projects in all City-owned buildings. The City also expanded the funding program to reach many more agencies, support new and innovative projects, and provide the incremental costs of efficiency measures in planned capital construction projects. Other initiatives include expanding solar power on City rooftops, implementation of combined heat and power (CHP) projects to generate energy more efficiently and reliably, improving building operations and maintenance and piloting new clean energy technology in City buildings. The City also seeks to improve compliance with existing laws, raise standards for energy performance on new construction and renovations, and promote resiliency improvements during efficiency upgrades.

Looking back to that conference room, it is humbling to see how much our City has changed because of those initial conversations. A decade later, we are proud to continue being part of the action team helping the City continue to lead the way in achieving their energy efficiency and carbon reduction plan.