Bill Morris in Green Ideas on June 9, 2022
For the thousands of New York City co-op and condo boards wrestling with ways to cut their buildings’ carbon emissions enough to avoid looming fines, the recently concluded session of the state Legislature was, in the words of one observer, “a few little steps forward, but a really big step back.”
First the good news. The Utility Thermal Energy Network and Jobs Act passed both houses of the Legislature. This bill, whose co-sponsors included state Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan’s East Side, promotes thermal energy networks throughout the state and provides jobs to utility workers who are unemployed. Geothermal power draws the natural heat energy stored in the Earth to power heat pumps that can heat and cool a building and reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to oil-fired boilers.
“These networks,” the bill states, “represent an important strategy to help New York scale building electrification and decarbonization, reduce costs for customers, minimize impacts on the electric grid, and retain and create good union jobs.”
Geothermal is seen as a key weapon in weaning the state from fossil fuels, which is the goal of both the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and New York City’s ambitious Climate Mobilization Act. Under the latter, co-op and condo boards must reduce their buildings’ carbon emissions to prescribed levels or face stiff fines beginning in 2025. The fines become even stiffer in 2030 and in succeeding years.
New York State currently draws 30% of its energy from renewable sources. By law, it must bump that number to 70% by 2030.
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Now for the bad news. The Legislature failed to act on both the Build Public Renewables Act and the All-Electric Buildings Act. The former would have allowed the New York Power Authority to own and build its own renewable energy projects, and it would have set deadlines to eliminate fossil-fuel power plants. The latter would have banned gas hookups in new construction — similar to a bill passed in New York City last year that will require buildings of all sizes to be constructed fully electric by 2027.
The demise of the two bills was greeted with dismay by green energy advocates. “This sends the message that taking bold climate action was not a priority of the Legislature this year,” Sonal Jessel, policy director at We Act for Environmental Justice, tells Crain’s. “Considering that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is telling us we don’t have a lot of time to really move forward on major emissions reductions, every time we lose a year it’s very frustrating and very hard to take.”
Also expressing disappointment in the Legislature’s performance was Megan Ahearn, program director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Without such sweeping measures as building electrification, she tells Crain’s, the legislative session represented “a few steps forward, but a really big step back. We’re not at a point where the state can hang its hat on smaller victories. It’s really these transformative pieces of legislation that will reshape things.”
Looks like these transformative pieces of legislation will have to wait till next year.
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