Buildings in New York City are subject to stringent construction codes and local laws, which cover many areas of performance. There are three closely related laws that seek to reduce energy consumption and emissions in buildings:
- The Benchmarking Law (Local Law 84 of 2009)
- Building Energy Grades (Local Law 33 of 2018)
- The NYC Green New Deal (Climate Mobilization Act)
Buildings covered by the Benchmarking Law must report their annual energy and water consumption to New York City. The data is gathered with the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and the annual report must be generated and submitted by May 1.
Energy consumption data is used to calculate the Energy Star score of a building, which indicates performance on a scale from 1 to 100. Starting from 2020, the NYC government will assign building grades from A to F based on Energy Star scores. The energy consumption profile can also be used to calculate building emissions, and the Climate Mobilization Act has introduced an emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030.
Make sure your building is compliant with construction codes and local laws.
Benchmarking data has an important role in both Local Law 33 and the Climate Mobilization Act. Building owners can also use this information to analyze the effectiveness of energy efficiency measures.
Meeting Local Law 33 and the NYC Green New Deal
Energy efficiency measures and clean power generation can both reduce the environmental footprint of buildings. However, focusing on energy efficiency first is the best strategy for building owners in NYC.
- Energy efficiency improves the energy grade of a building while reducing emissions.
- Clean energy sources also reduce emissions, but they don’t improve energy grades.
The energy grade is based on how efficiently a building uses energy, regardless of the source. On the other hand, building emissions depend on both consumption and energy sources. Both energy efficiency and renewable generation are good decisions from a financial standpoint, since they reduce energy costs. However, investing in energy efficiency first is the best approach for compliance purposes.
NYC Buildings covered by Local Law 84 have been benchmarking their energy and water consumption since 2010. Energy grades for buildings will be introduced in 2020, based on their Energy Star scores. As the next step, the Climate Mobilization Act has an emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030.
- There will be an intermediate goal in 2024 for buildings with the highest emissions, which has not been defined yet.
- A much more ambitious target of cutting emissions by 80% applies for 2050.
A professional energy audit can help maximize the return on investment from building improvements. If the most promising energy efficiency measures are identified first, owners can prioritize building upgrades. This will achieve the highest possible Energy Star score and the lowest possible emissions for the amount invested.
Technical Challenges to Meet the NYC Green New Deal
Among all the requirements discussed in this article, the NYC Green New Deal is by far the most difficult to meet. LL84 of 2009 (Benchmarking) and LL33 of 2018 (Energy grades) do not require a minimum performance level. Building owners can meet both laws by submitting their data on time and displaying their energy grade, even if the building is very inefficient. The Climate Mobilization Act is more demanding in this aspect, since there are hefty penalties for not reducing emissions to the level required.
To reduce building emissions in NYC by 40%, the required investment by 2030 is around $20 billion. However, technological innovations in energy efficiency and renewable energy could reduce this figure. Consulting and engineering services will play a key role, helping identify the most promising measures for each building, and optimizing their cost.