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Where Will Co-ops and Condos Get Clean Electricity?

New York City

Emission Cap
May 1, 2019

Many co-op and condo boards are asking themselves a question in the wake of the city council’s recent adoption the Climate Mobilization Act: where are we going to get enough carbon-free electricity to meet the law’s stringent demands on reducing buildings’ carbon emissions?

Buildings 25,000 square feet or larger, including co-ops and condos, must cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2030 and make further cuts in subsequent years to help the city reach a goal of an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050

One source of carbon-free electricity – other than solar panels and wind turbines – is the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a planned cable that will traverse the state, traveling underground and underwater to deliver 1,000 megawatts to the city from a hydropower station 330 miles away, in Quebec. It is expected to open in 2025

"There is for sure going to be heightened demand for green electricity, and at this point supply is the question," Andy Anderson, a partner at power-management software company EnergyWatch, tells Crain’s. "Right now there's only one shovel-ready project, and there's only so much space on that line. If nothing changes from today, there will be a shortage."

The sudden rush for low-carbon or emissions-free electricity underscores the challenges for landlords and co-op and condo boards created by the new legislation. The rules establish caps on the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions permitted per square foot, depending on a building's use. Two other proposed power lines, which together would connect the city's grid with about 1,250 megawatts of cleaner power from upstate, have yet to receive clearance – a process that can take years. And the competition for clean electricity is already fierce. Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed last week that the city plans to buy up about half of the electricity from the Champlain Hudson Power Express, leaving less for large co-ops and condos and other buildings.

Until a solution is found, co-op and condo boards need to focus on what they can control: such things as boilers, cogen systems, solar panels, submetering, and the building envelope. 

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