New York Wants to Cut its $500 Million Energy Bill. Can You Help?

Aug. 19, 2013
Business opportunity is opening up for the energy efficiency industry in New York, where the state is trying to cut its $500 million energy bill.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to reduce energy use 20 percent in public building and trim the state’s $500 million annual energy bill. This represents a big opportunity for those who work in commercial retrofits, lighting, heating and cooling, monitoring, metering, and related energy efficiency sectors.

Where to begin? Take a look at a report, ‘BuildSmart NY Baseline Energy Performance of New York State Government Buildings’ issued last week by the New York Power Authority. The report, which sets the groundwork for New York’s ambitious undertaking, provides energy use data about 212 million square feet of building space.

“As the central management and implementation manager of the Governor’s BuildSmart NY initiative, the power authority sees this benchmarking report as critical to the program’s success – you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Gil Quiniones, president and chief executive officer of NYPA, the nation’s largest public power organization.

NYPA describes the report as the most comprehensive accounting of energy use in buildings nationally. But the authority is offering more than just data to get work underway. It has committed $450 million in low-cost financing for energy efficiency improvements at state facilities, and an additional $350 million for similar improvements on the county and local government level.

Through competitive bidding. NYPA plans to assemble “a best-in-class group of contractors, and equipment and service providers” to work on the projects, according to Lloyd Kass, BuildSmart NY director at NYPA. (The authority posts its request for proposals here.)

Most of the work is likely to focus on colleges, prisons and four other entities that together represent more than 90 percent of state building space. The State University of New York is by far the largest with 40.4 percent of the total square footage. After SUNY comes the Department of Corrections & Community Supervision, 18 percent; City University of New York, 9.3 percent;  Office of Mental Health, 9 percent; Office of General Services, 9 percent; and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 5 percent.

New York faces some big challenges in reaching its 20 percent goal. For one, a preponderance of the buildings – 91 percent – are master metered, meaning one meter serves several buildings. The state cannot obtain granular energy data on master metered buildings; individual metering offers greater insight into building performance.

Only 157 buildings, representing 19 million square feet, have individual meters, out of the 376 buildings that were benchmarked. The state plans to individually meter as many large buildings as possible by the end of 2016.

The report provides energy performance data for each building on a square foot basis, allowing for side-by-side comparison of facilities – but with a caveat. High energy use per square foot does not necessarily indicate inefficiency. Some facilities use a lot of energy because of the nature of their business.  Grand Central Station is an example. Its energy use is nearly five times higher than the state average. But millions of people pass through its doors each day, and it saves tremendous amounts of energy by offering mass transit, the report says. NYPA plans to more carefully analyze unique facilities, like Grand Central Station, in next year’s benchmarking report.

New York expects to save $100 million annually for taxpayers by cutting energy use 20 percent.  Reaching the goal also will help eliminate 8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – equal to taking 1.6 million cars off the road, according to the report.

The report, which will be updated annually, can be found here.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

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