Call it a false negative. Due to incomplete meter readings and gaps in data entry by Con Edison, the city's Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued hundreds of erroneous F letter grades on buildings' energy efficiency. The F grades are meant to indicate a building owner failed to submit data to the city. But some buildings did submit data yet still received F’s, The City reports.
One of the buildings that earned an A but is stuck, for now, with an F, is part of Terrace Gardens Plaza, a co-op complex in Midwood, Brooklyn, according to an email management sent to shareholders. The other two addresses associated with the complex have A grades, according to the preliminary 2022 data.
In all, out of more than 20,000 new grades posted this month, 1,971 addresses, or about 9.8%, received F’s, based on preliminary DOB data. It is unclear which or how many buildings were affected by Con Ed’s data reporting snafu. DOB spokesperson Andrew Rudansky says it was “several hundred.”
In a statement, Con Ed spokesperson Allan Drury said the company is “working to resolve” the issues.
Building owners may face a $1,250 fine if they didn’t post their grades publicly by the end of October. But property managers who are waiting for an adjustment from the DOB for a wrongful F grade won’t be penalized if they don’t display their letter grades, Rudansky says, adding, “We are aware of a reporting issue with Con Ed that is affecting some property letter grades, and which is being resolved at the same time as we are undertaking the challenge process” in which building owners can contest their grade "This year, Con Edison made internal updates to improve the quality of their data for some of the properties on the covered building list, which may result in grade changes for these properties during this ongoing challenge period.”
Enacted in 2018 and amended in 2019, Local Law 33 requires buildings 20,000 square feet or larger to measure their water and energy consumption and submit the data to the city annually. Building owners are required to post the letter grades, which are based on usage and an Energy STAR score that rates a building's energy efficiency, on a scale of 0 to 100, compared to buildings of the same size and usage nationwide. A score of 50, which produces a D letter grade, means that half of the comparable buildings are more energy efficient and half are less efficient. A score of 85 or above produces an A grade.
There's a common misconception that buildings with high letter grades will avoid fines under Local Law 97 of the Climate Mobilization Act, beginning in 2024. This is not necessarily the case. Local Law 97 sets caps on buildings' carbon emissions, and failure to meet the caps will result in fines. A building with an A letter grade under Local Law 33 could face stiff fines under Local Law 97. Why? Because energy and water consumption is not always equal to carbon emissions.
The Con Edison glitch first became known to insiders around the time of the data submission deadline in May.
“It’s hard to do data quality checks the day before the submission,” says Charlie Read, director of operations at ReDocs, a firm that helps properties comply with environmental and energy laws. “I’m hopeful that the city will work with buildings and consultants to maybe modify the way things are moving forward. … Con Ed has been really airtight for years, so hopefully this is just a one-off thing on their end.” He says he has heard that DOB would release updated scores in December.
This year’s preliminary data showed improvement citywide, with more buildings achieving A and B grades compared to the two previous years. Co-op and condo boards that want to improve their buildings' grades can seek free guidance through the city’s NYC Accelerator program and its Sustainability Help Center.
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