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New York City’s many buildings are its key source of carbon emissions, and a high value target in the battle to achieve an ambitious climate target.
New York City has rolled out an aggressive sustainability plan to break the city’s addiction to fossil fuels. The aim is to be net zero by 2050, with all electricity coming from renewable sources. Overall, the city intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% and offset the remainder, potentially using initiatives to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
These ambitions have been firmly embedded in landmark legislation such as the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and New York City Council’s Climate Mobilization Act. For example, businesses face the risk of financial penalties if they fail to meet decarbonization targets, and landlords are not permitted to pass on these penalties to tenants.
New York City’s signature asset is its many buildings, which account for 71% of emissions. This makes them the highest value target in the battle for net zero. A wide range of decarbonization initiatives have already begun, including ‘deep energy retrofits’ of key buildings such as Brooklyn Museum and the NYPD Building Maintenance Facility. These retrofits include a range of features to reduce energy use and carbon emissions, including capitalizing on the latest smart building solutions.
Other initiatives include the design, construction, and operation of carbon-neutral multi-family buildings. An initial funding round of $13 million is supporting 14 projects undertaken by large, small, and not-for-profit developers, including constructing over 4,200 units for moderate to low-income households.
New York City has set many decarbonization milestones, one of which is a 50% renewable electricity grid by 2030. Achieving this will require rollout of large-scale access to alternative energy sources, including many outside the city’s boundaries.
The medium-term solution is to bring 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind power online by 2030, while building on the city’s sevenfold increase in solar power since 2014. New York plans to increase its solar capacity during retrofits, with an initial target of 100 megawatts across city property. A 1.4 megawatts solar power project being installed on the rooftop of the Javits Center will become Manhattan’s largest solar installation once operational. Its 2-megawatt battery is part of a plan to build a total of 500 megawatts of citywide storage by 2025 to serve local electricity needs on demand.