Bringing New Clean Energy Technologies to Life in the Big Apple

New York City Council Passes Legislation to Provide a Smoother Pathway for the Development of Clean Energy and Building Performance Technologies

[Below is an excerpt from oral Testimony I gave before the New York City Council Committee on Technology and Environment on Feb 25.  The NY City Council passed the legislation on March 3]

Through much of the last century, New York was a national and global leader in bringing bold and innovative technologies to the forefront.  Whether through the world’s first large-scale suspension bridge represented by the Brooklyn Bridge, the first large-scale electric distribution grid by Thomas Edison, or one of the first — and still among the most extensive — electrically powered transit systems in the world, the City has built a legacy upon which cutting-edge inventors, designers and builders can thrive.  

In the paradigm of the new clean energy economy, many building owners and developers throughout New York are eager to implement new technologies, materials and products that address environmental concerns.  However, many innovative green building projects have difficulty obtaining permits because the technologies introduce interdisciplinary issues that are hard to regulate by separate agencies.  Streamlining the process to speed up the adoption of sustainable building practices and technologies will provide a smooth pathway for the range of environmental, sustainability and health benefits associated with green building. 

This legislationto establish an Interagency Green Team in the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and an Innovation Review Board within Department of Buildings—represents an important new foundation for the City to emerge as a leader on implementing new and exciting green building technologies as it continues to move toward its environmental goals and become a center of ‘green’ innovation.  It will not only help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but will result in a number of other benefits, including creation of much needed jobs, increased economic development, and improved air quality. 

Additional Background

The greenhouse gas emissions that stem from aggregate energy use in New York’s buildings represent the single largest contributor of the City’s greenhouse gas profile—nearly 80% in all.  The City has already taken a tremendous step forward to address these emissions and move toward achieving its mandate to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030, with the passage of the landmark Greener, Greater Buildings Plan legislation last December. 

In July 2008, Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn asked the Urban Green Council to convene the NYC Green Codes Task Force to identify impediments to, and opportunities for green practices in the laws and regulations affecting buildings in New York.  NRDC is one of the participating groups in the Task Force, which recently released its final report with 111 recommendations.  One of which includes implementing this piece of legislation.  Implementing the recommendations of that comprehensive effort will be a critical piece of achieving the City’s ’30 by ‘30’ greenhouse gas reduction target.