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Here Are the Tools to Meet Carbon Targets – and Avoid Fines

Carol J. Ott in Green Ideas on June 25, 2019

New York City

GHG for Dummies
June 25, 2019

One big thing. Your building’s carbon emissions.

Yeah, so what? They are warming the planet, and New York City (and the state, too) has decided to do something about it. The city passed a group of laws called the Climate Mobilization Act, and if your building submits annual energy benchmarking data to the city, you will be affected. And by affected, we mean fined, if you don’t meet the new standards.

Lordy! Divine intervention won’t help. But understanding the rules of the new greenhouse game will. So here’s what you need to know, now:   

     Energy & Carbon. Your building uses many forms of energy, and each type releases different amounts of carbon. Energy types include natural gas, oil, steam and, for purposes of the new law, electricity (even though the carbon emissions from electricity come from wherever your electricity is generated).     

     Carbon Emissions Formula. There is a formula used to calculate your building’s carbon emissions. It’s based on building size (square footage) and energy usage, and it’s called your greenhouse gas emissions score, or GHG. Each type of building will be given a GHG budget, which is the number you can’t exceed; if you do, you will pay a hefty fine.

     Goal. To reduce your building’s carbon emissions. Easier said than done, and maybe more costly than you think.

Where to begin. First, find out where you stand today. You can do that with a couple of digital clicks. Go to the online NYC Energy and Performance map here: https://energy.cusp.nyu.edu/#/ Enter your building’s address, and you will be brought to the data pages reporting your building’s energy use. This information is pulled from the energy benchmarking data that your property manager or energy professional submitted.

How are you doing? At the top of the page you’ll see EUI, WUI and GHG. Clicking each of these will take you to the relevant information. The EUI tab will show your building’s Energy Star score, the WUI tab deals with water usage, and the GHG tab reveals your building’s GHG target budget for 2025 and 2030, and what your score is today. To avoid a fine beginning in 2025, your GHG score must be 6.75 or lower. By 2030, it will have to be 4.07 or lower.

Wonky number alert. Since your GHG is all about numbers, you should check that your Energy Benchmarking stats (where these numbers are pulled from) are correct. Habitat pulled a random address of one of our co-op subscribers to see how it was doing, and we found clerical errors in the data submitted in their annual energy benchmarking submission which, if left uncorrected, will have big consequences. In this case, the NYC Energy and Performance site reported the co-op had a GHG score of 6.75, and an Energy Star score of 38 – both indicating the building wasn’t doing well. Upon further investigation, however, it appears that the number of residential units reported was incorrect, which is integral to both formulas. To confirm that your energy benchmarking data is correct, go to http://maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/ and compare the property information there with what the NYC Energy and Performance is showing.

One more thing: rent-regulated units in your co-op. Your building will get a pass from meeting a GHG budget if you have these units in your building, but it won’t get a pass from carbon reduction work. If you fall in this category, your building will have to follow a “prescriptive path” of carbon-reducing measures.

Bottom line. Pay attention to these laws. Planning for compliance requires an energy professional and financial acumen. The good news, say experts, is that 80 percent of buildings already meet their 2025 GHG budgets. The less good news – which should drive your energy decisions now – is that today a whopping 75 percent of buildings exceed their 2030 GHG budget. That’s a short decade to find the money, to figure out what to do, and then to implement the changes so that you will successfully meet 2030 goals.

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