Earlier this week Habitat reported on 420 Beekman Hill, a 110-unit Manhattan co-op that's replacing the building's steam heating, cooling and hot water system with rooftop electric heat pumps. The cost of the $3.2 million project is being defrayed by more than $1 million worth of incentives from Con Edison and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The heat pumps will bring the co-op into compliance with Local Law 97 through 2049.
“We are going to prove that you can do this affordably,” says architect and board member Randolph Gerner.
What the Beekman Hill co-op board is doing is embracing electrification — eschewing fossil fuels in favor of building systems powered by clean electricity from such renewable sources as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectricity. But the benefit of electrification is predicated on the so-called greening of the electric grid. And that transformation has recently run into some major headwinds.
In October Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have allowed a transmission cable to run through parkland in Long Island to connect a major offshore wind farm to the electric grid. Together with the Public Service Commission's recent rejection of higher subsidies for renewable energy projects, the governor's veto casts doubt on whether Empire Wind 2 will move forward. If it does not, the state's push for a green electric grid would suffer a major setback.
Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas, said the veto “undermines New York’s commitment to the energy transition.” Less than two weeks ago Morris said the developer was already assessing the status of its three offshore wind projects planned in New York after state regulators with the Public Service Commission rejected Equinor’s bid for more subsidies, Crain's reports.
Other developments suggest that the Beekman Hill co-op's embrace of energy-efficient heat pumps goes against a national trend — slowing sales of heat pumps. Rising interest rates and inflation combined with a slow and confusing rollout of federal government incentives for the purchase of heat pumps are largely responsible for the recent drop in sales, The New York Times reports. These headwinds, if they persist, could jeopardize President Biden’s goals of effectively eliminating U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.
And finally, fossil fuels aren't going away anytime soon. A new United Nations-backed report paints an alarming picture of how dramatically coal, oil and gas production is expected to grow in the coming years. If current projections hold, the United States will drill for more oil and gas in 2030 than at any point in its history, The Times reports. So will Russia and Saudi Arabia.
“Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet,” António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said in a statement accompanying the report. “We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence.”Given what's going on across the nation and around the world, the members of the 240 Beekman Hill co-op board are not only visionaries and pioneers. They're heroes.
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