The Final Review

New York City Adopts Laws to Increase Energy Efficiency

  • Tom Walsh

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New York City recently enacted several progressive laws to improve buildings’ energy efficiency. These new requirements are in keeping with the City’s commitment to combat climate change. In June 2017, Mayor de Blasio issued the Climate Action Executive Order stating that New York City would adopt the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and directing city agencies to develop plans for reducing greenhouse gas ((GHG) emissions. According to the Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions, buildings are responsible for 67 percent of the City’s GHG emissions, and therefore, it is critical to adopt measures to increase their energy efficiency.

pedestrians_crossing_NYC_street_by_arthur-osipyanPhoto by Arthur Osipyan

More Stringent Energy Code

Local Law No. 32, adopted January 8, 2018, requires the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings (DOB) to amend the New York City Energy Conservation Code (Energy Code) in 2019 and 2022 to bring the Energy Code up to date with the most recent version of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) model stretch energy code in effect at the time the proposed amendments are submitted (unless the model code was published more than three years before).

NYSERDA developed the NYStretch Code-Energy for 2015 to be voluntarily adopted by local governments. It is projected to achieve greater energy reductions than those mandated by the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code.

Currently, NYSERDA is working on the NYStretch Code-Energy 2018 that is estimated to be approximately 25 percent more efficient than the International Energy Conservation Code 2018’s residential provisions and 18 percent more efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1-2106’s commercial provisions. The public comment period on the draft of the 2018 model code closed on April 3, 2018.

For amendments to the Energy Code due in 2025 and after, DOB must prepare a report “recommending predicted energy use targets” for new or substantially reconstructed buildings that are more than 25,000 square feet.

Energy Grades

Another law enacted on January 8, 2018, Local Law 33, builds upon the City’s energy benchmarking program. It mandates that a building receive an energy efficiency letter grade based upon the building’s energy benchmarking score generated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® (Portfolio Manager). The letter grades are assigned based on the Portfolio Manager score as follows:

  • A = 90 or more;
  • B = 50 - 89;
  • C = 20 - 49;
  • D = 0 - 19;
  • F = building has not complied with the benchmarking requirements; and
  • N = building for which obtaining a score is infeasible or falls under one of the program exceptions.

Beginning in 2020, DOB will assign a grade to each building, and the building owner must post the grade and energy efficiency score “in a conspicuous location” near each building entrance within 30 days of receiving the energy efficiency grade.

DOB will also publish the energy efficiency scores and grades online and will annually audit a sample group of buildings’ submitted energy efficiency data.

Chicago adopted similar energy benchmarking disclosure requirements in November 2017. Rather than letter grades, Chicago uses a star rating system based on a building’s Portfolio Manager score. A placard with the assigned number of stars must be posted so it is visible to those entering the building. Also, the ratings must be shared with a prospective tenant or buyer as well as stated in any advertisements for a building lease or sale.

Creation of Energy Plan

A new law requiring the City to adopt a long-term energy plan, Local Law 248, was enacted in December 2017. The energy plan should include: a review of the current supply; a summary of current and projected energy demand; identification of the government entities that regulate the energy supply; an estimate of the City’s renewable energy sources, energy efficiency measures, and distributed generation; and recommendations for developing “additional renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures.”

The law also requires the creation of an advisory subcommittee to consult with New York City Sustainable Advisory Board regarding the adequacy of the City’s energy supply and a long-term energy plan.

Additional Laws

The City enacted a few other important laws around the new year that promote the use of renewable energy as well as greater energy efficiency. This includes the establishment of an Office of Alternative Energy within DOB to streamline alternative energy projects. Annual reports are now required on the electricity and fossil fuel usage of city buildings as well as the installation of equipment to conduct real-time energy use monitoring of city buildings.

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