Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century

“Environmental Challenges in the 21st Century”

June 21st, 2012 Event Report Save the Children Headquarters
Westport, CT, 4-6pm

Carolyn Miles, President, Save the Children, opened the program. After her welcome, she acknowledged that “the issue of climate change has a great impact on the world’s poor children.” It is hoped that this is a good starting point for integrating sustainability into Save the Children’s work all over the world.

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Roma Stibravy, President of NGO Sustainability, Inc., kick-started our event with her introductory statement:

“While we are sitting and dreaming here, world leaders along with their representatives and a vast number of civil society members are gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Earth Summit, working on the way forward in dealing with the environment.

As we are all aware, we are consuming resources faster than the Earth can regenerate them, and producing more waste and pollution than the earth can absorb. There is scientific consensus that Planet Earth is rapidly approaching its boundaries of a healthy and safe environment for human habitation as we know it.

The Rio Summit is trying to reimagine our socio-economic systems, and the way in which they should work in harmony with nature in order to maintain a liveable planet. The UN has also declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, promoting renewable energy. This requires a rethinking of our use of fossil fuels.

NGO Sustainability hosts programs at the United Nations with speakers who are implementing the latest ideas and technologies dealing with sustainability, data gathering, water and energy. We also do frequent mailings to our members and friends of current articles concerning sustainability and renewable energy.

In terms of program implementation, at the request of the President of Liberia we are launching a small-scale solar energy project there funded by the UN Global Environment Facility (GEF)/Small Grants Program (SGP), based on work I did with the President when she was head of the African Bureau of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the 1990s.

However, at today’s meeting we are “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally” in hosting our outstanding Connecticut Commissioner for Energy and the Environment. You may have all read the recent American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 report in which all of the counties in Connecticut measured received failing grades for air quality. Fairfield County ranked as the 24th most polluted county in the nation. This situation was attributed partly to its proximity to pollution-heavy New York City and the plentiful traffic on Interstate I-95. The report also deemed the New York-Newark (NJ)-Bridgeport metro area as the 15th most polluted in the country.

Surprisingly, given this information, there is a struggle now to close the coal burning power plant in Bridgeport. Hopefully, the health of the residents of Fairfield County will prevail and both the Bridgeport and Norwalk coal power plants will be shut down simultaneously. This is something the residents of the County and the State can do, given enough pressure on the State legislature and the Governor.

At the federal level there is good news in this regard, as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed tightening standards governing fine particles, commonly known as soot. If these standards prevail the coal plants in Connecticut might in any case have to shut down As to cost, EPA says the health benefits will greatly outweigh the costs–every dollar spent on pollution control will result in a least $30 in health related savings.

2Also, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment is organizing hearings to deal with rising water levels along our shoreline for Fairfield County on July 22nd, 6:00PM, Penfield Pavilion, 323 Fairfield Beach Road, Fairfield.

You are all welcome to work with us in not only preserving the beauty of Fairfield County but also the health of its population. You have our email address and website, and there are membership brochures around.

We should, in addition, acknowledge that the Governor recently put forth his goal of making Connecticut first in energy efficiency in his new integrated resource plan, which I hope we will hear more about. This goal is aimed to reduce energy use by 2.1% per year.

The Report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability1 outlined recommendations for empowering people to make sustainable choices, working towards a sustainable economy, and strengthening institutional governance. The Panel concludes with a call for action and looks to the Secretary-General to implement the recommendations that fall within his authority. Ultimately, the Panel’s greatest aspiration is to see the report serve as a source of inspiration for people all around the planet. The combination of inspiration, ideas, and actions, are instrumental in achieving sustainable development for us all.”

Before introducing our main speaker, the Connecticut Commissioner for Energy and Environment, Dan Esty, Roma Stibravy handed the floor to Peter Yazbak.

Peter Yazbak, Outreach Coordinator for Congressman Jim Himes, spoke on behalf of the Congressman, and began by saying,

“We need to drive and sometimes force a national conversation on sustainable development, renewable energy, and gender equality.”

He praised organizations like NGO Sustainability, which help to revive the conversation when these topics in Congress get stale.

For detailed information on the recommendations made: http://www.un.org/gsp/report/

Mr. Yazbak deals with many SMEs who are looking to relocate to Bridgeport, where there are massive industrial factories that have been abandoned for several decades on parcels of land called Brown Fields. As it stands, there exist many regulations that private investors will have to go through to develop those sites, because they do not know what industrial waste lies buried there. Commissioner Esty made a commitment to streamline that process, so that private companies can utilize these sites. Mr. Yazbak thanked Commissioner Esty for making Connecticut one of the more greener and business-friendly states.


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Energy Transformations

Echoing Congressman Himes’ thoughts, Mr. Yazbak said that we cannot afford to wait to reform our nation’s energy policy, as the demand for energy is growing constantly. He warned that we risk following, not leading, the transformation of our energy economy. “For the sake of our environment, our national security, and our way of life, we should take responsibility for our own energy future and commit to an energy policy that strengthens the production of clean, safe, renewable, and reliable American-made energy, as well as work towards energy independence in economic growth,” affirmed Mr. Yazbak.

Mr. Yazbak remarked that Congress is not inclined to invest more in the kinds of clean energy technologies, sustainable communities and green jobs that will power our economic engine of the 21st Century. Given the partisan nature of politics in Washington D.C. today, allies of the causes of sustainability and of renewable energy in Congress are trying to keep status-quo baselines from being cut. Though discouraging on the national level, there has been some headway and momentum in Fairfield County on creating more sustainable communities. In Stamford, the Harbor Point Project and the South End Redevelopment continues at great pace. In Norwalk, the Housing Authority and Redevelopment Agency have partnered with developers to implement a sustainable communities planning grant, also supported by Congressman Himes. The objective is to revitalize Washington Village, which is the oldest public housing in Norwalk. There are plans to transition this development into a sustainable, walkable community that will be integrated into the public transportation network. In conclusion, Mr. Yazbak reaffirmed that “Congressman Himes continues to look forward to working with groups like NGO Sustainability and their partners in DEEP and the Governor’s Office to get support for sustainable projects and drive the discussion on getting into a renewable and clean energy economy.”

Mr. Yazbak’s remarks set the stage for Connecticut Commissioner for Energy and Environment, Dan Esty’s, speech.

An Auspicious Moment “We are at a watershed moment in this country when it comes to energy and environmental protection and commitment (or lack thereof) to sustainability,” said Commissioner Esty. He highlighted that in Presidential debates over the last 3 decades, energy and environmental issues have garnered little attention. He also pointed to several calls in political debates for the end of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy.

“We have had a very hostile dialogue when it comes to energy and environment, and a lot of heated political rhetoric.”

Commissioner Esty remarked that we in the public domain have an obligation to rethink how we pursue our environmental and energy agenda, affirming that we should re-gear our approach for the 21st Century.

Malloy/Connecticut Model for Sustainability

In stressing the need to integrate Energy and Environment into a single department, Commissioner Esty iterated that a third “E” has to be part of the conversation – Economy. He expounded on this by saying that we have to think of our energy and environmental agenda in the context of economic implications, and provide some assurance that how we pursue energy and environment will be supportive of economic growth, jobs, and prosperity. This is especially true in times like these when people are very nervous about their economic prospects and the future. “We in Connecticut are advancing, with the Governor’s leadership, to a new approach for both energy and the environment,” said Commissioner Esty.

Placing energy and environment into the context of the economy, Commissioner Esty believes that progress depends on changing our perspective towards the business world. For most of the last 40 years, the environmental community in particular, and environmental law, have seen business as the problem and have been very hostile to the business community. The goal of environmental law has been to hold a big stick over the business community and to beat businesses regularly for their short-comings.

“The key to progress going forward is a structure of environmental law and policy focused on driving innovation.”

Commissioner Esty stressed the need to engage the business world, which is what the state of Connecticut is trying to do. Innovation means technology development, but also goes beyond that – it encompasses the systems for environmental protection and energy, the policy framework of incentives, and how we finance the movement to cleaner technologies and cleaner energy. He called for a shift away from the old regulation system called “Command & Control”, in which the Government dictated exactly what businesses could do, and instead harness market forces with the use of economic incentives to engage our business community in developing these new technologies.

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Turning a Corner

Commissioner Esty urged the audience and, by extension, the nation, to tap into innovation and creativity. He asserted that we need to “play to the strength of a nation that has always been very good about promoting innovation, engaging entrepreneurs, and really spurring on the creative spirits that exist all across this country – not only in the big companies, but also in our small companies.” Commissioner Esty called for shifting the model of environmental protection, which means lightening the burden of regulation. This does not entail lowering standards, but lightening how that process of regulation plays out, in terms of how much time, effort and money it takes to conform.

Exemplifying this lightening, Commissioner Esty said that the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is going through a “lean” process. This is a technique which involves taking apart the process, and pulling out the pieces that are not value-added. This thins down and lightens how the system work, speeding it up to work better and more efficiently. The state of Connecticut is doing this particularly in their permitting programs, trying to ensure that it is administratively much easier for businesses that have to get permits. Efforts are already underway in the Brown Fields Program, not just in Bridgeport but in cities and towns across the state.

“They have these older industrial facilities that no one wants to touch because if you buy it or try to put up a new factory, you own the old liability problems of hazardous waste that’s been there and chemicals that were dumped outside, and inherit all kinds of pollution problems. We’re trying to change the liability rules and the economic incentives and make sure that a new player coming in gets credit for the clean-up of the immediate problems, not having to bear risks and liabilities of uncertain proportions beyond the perimeter of the property,” said Commissioner Esty. He went on to stress the value of reusing and recycling existing infrastructure, as opposed to going out in an open green field and building a new factory. On the energy front, Connecticut is doing something similar, centered on innovation as a critical starting point. The Commissioner stressed that we don’t just simply want clean energy, but also cheaper and more reliable energy.

“Cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable electricity and energy.”

Economically, it doesn’t make sense to have clean energy at, for instance, 3 times the price of existing grid-scale electricity. Thus, a set of economic incentives need to be put in place to drive down the cost of electricity and energy so that we can get the long-term crossing of renewable energy coming under the cost of burning fossil fuels. Connecticut is focused on driving that innovation process to bring down cost and be on a sustainable energy track.

Historically, the focus on energy policy has been through subsidies to preferred companies and industries. However, the track record here is not good. Commissioner Esty cited the example of $500 million given to Solyndra versus the $30 billion that the Government placed on corn-based ethanol as the alternative energy future. Three units of fossil fuel input are needed to produce 4 units of corn-based ethanol, translating into very little energy gain. In addition, this drives up the price of everything that contains corn, from tortillas to corn-fed chicken. Again, the Commissioner emphasized a shift from subsidies to a model that creates a level-playing field and supports the financing of entrepreneurial activity in many different directions. Commissioner Esty asserts that he wants a “technology race”.

Commissioner Esty proposed a platform of incentives available to any technology, calling these incentives “technology neutral”. Focusing on the economic side of things, he remarked that we should drive companies to deploy their technologies in Connecticut, and support them in a way that brings down cost by running competitions and harnessing market forces. In aiding the “technology race”, Commissioner Esty said that we need to ensure that the Government provides basic economic support for the research and development that spins out economic opportunities.

Energy efficiency

The state of Connecticut is creating energy efficiency programs for every category of electricity consumer. The Lead by Example Program was created to fund energy efficiency in all of Connecticut’s state buildings. At the same time, a program is being launched for homes across the state. The Residential Rate Payer is not just for houses, but for apartments, condos, and senior living centers. Multi-unit dwellings are some of the least efficient because it is always complicated who’s paying the bill and whether they get the benefit of an investment in efficiency.

Question & Answer

On how Finland is meeting its EU obligations and also its own legal structure, Vesa Koivisto of BaseN remarked that the goal of information is crucial. He expressed interest in how Connecticut is driving the awareness of rate payers in their own energy consumption, and enabling them to understand the effects of their actions in terms of energy usage and efficiency gains.

Commissioner Esty responded by highlighting that recently the Governor was in Stamford to launch a new marketing campaign around the theme of Energize Connecticut, which encourages people to invest in their own smart energy strategies. An important part of the equation is the awareness that there are options. However, circumstances differ house to house. The next challenge, as expressed by the Commissioner, is how to get individual houses the necessary information about their own energy use. Another possibility is to invest more in software companies, which are developing techniques to analyse a home’s energy use for efficiency gains. The Commissioner mentioned that the best way to use this information gap is still being worked out.

Vesa cited good experience with Smart Meters that provide hourly consumption data for the consumer, which can be accessed easily from a website.

Commissioner Esty supported this by saying that getting information into consumers’ hands is the first step towards behavioural change. At present, there is no policy framework that rewards this. The next step would thus be to create incentives to reduce energy consumption and invest in efficiency.

Roma Stibravy cited the Rockefeller Center ice-making facilities, in which ice is made during the night in large tanks in the basement, and then used for the ice rink during the day, which results in considerable cost-savings.

Commissioner Esty talked about the concept of peak-load shaving, which aims to take down the spikes that occur on the hottest days, usually 10-15 days of the summer (largely for air- conditioning). Investment in a smart grid could allow us to shave the peaks and shut down old power plants which run on fossil fuels and pollute the environment. However, the challenge is that the legislature is wary of this.

Ben Michaels of Clean Air-Cool Planet raised the issue of energy storage to reduce peak at times when there is less demand.

Commissioner Esty remarked that there are lots of challenges to cost-effective energy storage. The ability to move to a renewable energy future is stymied by the lack of good storage. “We will never get to a fully built out wind-power or solar-power future unless we can solve the storage problem, because the intermittency of those technologies is overwhelming,” said Commissioner Esty. He again affirmed that we need to move towards a cleaner, cheaper, and a more reliable energy future, stressing the importance of treating this as an entire package, and integrate it with a more economically rigorous approach that addresses the other dimensions of our energy problem.

Vesa made a point that the energy system is currently very much consumption-driven. With good information and technology, he thinks that we can shift that balance and also impact the demand. He remarked that this is already being done in some scale with Demand Response (DR) programs.

Commissioner Esty supported the idea of having a smart grid. With information technology, it shouldn’t be very hard to reduce the energy load of many buildings, which would be integral to shaving the peak loads.

Timothy Ong of NGO Sustainability pointed to the issue of economic incentives and disincentives, and asked how the state could best determine the optimal amount of tax to charge.

The Commissioner responded by saying that the first big hurdle is that it is politically impossible to talk about making people pay for the harms they cause. Responding to the optimal amount of tax, he said that analysis would allow us to determine the amount to charge based on the amount of harm caused. The first step would be to come up with a reasonable estimate, and then drive information into the market place to refine the amount of tax charged.

Commissioner Esty concluded the event by reaffirming his ideas about innovation and energy efficiency, and thanking everyone who attended.

6th Annual NYC Solar Summit

6th Annual NYC Solar Summit

June 7th, 2012
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

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Morning Keynote: Christopher O’Connor, Vice President, Industry Solutions

Software IBM Smarter Cities

Mr. O’Connor stressed the importance of bringing public and private sectors together to form an integrated system to deal with aging infrastructure, increasing population, and other challenges. To be a part of the solution agencies must also be able to work well together as well as with the communities at large (like hospitals). We need a process among agencies so they can easily work together. One example of this is the NYPD real time crime center where they can analyze the probability of where crime will occur by using identities of people and incidence rates. Another example is in Singapore where they are now able to forecast traffic. This is important because heavy traffic events might affect important public events, transportation, etc. In Washington DC they were able to create a water and sewer authority that is able to analyze data to perform proactive maintenance. We see the same opportunity in NYC for solar energy. The first step is to organize digital information and make it available so that the data may be used in many different ways. This data can then be used to look at trends and predict possible outcomes. We can think about this as a leveraged ecosystem where you can use programs to get what you want done. The Smart Cities system focuses on all key aspects of a city like water, transportation, asset management, and social programs.

Panel #1: Solar America and SunShot Initiative Update

Moderator: Tria Case, University Director of Sustainability, CUNY, said that

The NYC solar market is growing exponentially and there has been an 800% increase in solar energy use in NYC.

SunShot Working Groups: Ryan Peck, NYC Solar Ombudsman, CUNY

The DOE SunShot initiative aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of solar energy systems by 75% before the end on the decade. This is a collaborative national effort to make the United States a leader in the global clean energy race by fueling solar energy technology development. The Rooftop Challenge, as part of the SunShot initiative, was created to make installing rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) easier, faster, and cheaper for homeowners and businesses. There are twenty-two teams from across the country taking this Rooftop Challenge. These teams are made up of local and state governments as well as professionals such as utilities, installers, non-governmental organization, and others to make solar energy more accessible and affordable. These teams cover 50% of the country. The goal is to streamline and standardize processes that will dramatically improve local market conditions. They have SMART NY working groups set up to tackle these challenges.

Net Metering and Interconnection Standards: Margarett Jolly, P.E., DG Ombudswoman, Con Edison

Con Edison is working to address policy and permitting issues. New York still has the highest cost of installation for solar panels, even though the cost has

significantly decreased since last year. A quarter of the costs have to do with interconnection and permitting, which are non-hardware systems costs. Agencies are now working to see where they can streamline the permitting system, since it currently takes up to a year. This is especially important because there has been an exponential increase of applications coming in. To streamline the process, they are looking at net metering, reviewing standards to see if any improvements can be made, and surveying stakeholders on how the system can be improved. Process improvements have included: understanding what developers can expect the Department of Buildings (DOB) to inspect, coordinated or joint third party inspection for ConEd, DOB, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the development of joint due diligence requirements between DOB and NYSERDA. They are also reviewing options of “no construction” permits for standard systems in NYC. The next phase will be to introduce this streamlined system to the rest of New York State.

Permitting and Interconnection: John Lee, RA, LEED AP, Senior Architect, NYC Department of Buildings

The Department of Buildings wants to support sustainability while ensuring the safety and preservation of infrastructure. There is room for improvement in terms of permitting and they have set out 4 primary objectives:

1. Streamline process: the creation of an online solar portal with the availability of a permit tracker

2. Adopt solar ABCs: identify work types that warrant reduced levels of review and inspection

3. The “get it done together”: this is to address multi agencies, bringing them in one room so everyone involved can be present

4. Transparency and accountability: give the power of information to the consumer

Mr. Lee asks that the solar community keep building, build it right, and keep rattling the Department of Buildings’ cage. Currently the process is under study to allow relief for small job types while maintaining the highest level of safety and oversight. They continue to streamline the NYC permitting and interconnection processes.

Financing Options: David Gilford, Assistant Vice President, Center for Economic Transformation, NYCEDC (New York City Economic Development Corporation)

As financing is a huge issue in the solar industry, the goal is to understand challenges to solar financing and trying to remove these barriers. One of the biggest challenges to overcome is the upfront expenses for the solar installation and technology. There are lots of incentives but bringing them together is difficult. Their objective is to research current status, survey solar developers and financial institutions and analyze cities building stock and assess financing needs. Their initial focus is third party ownership where the financing company would initially own the solar installation. There are also power purchase agreements and solar leases which allows for monthly payments. There is also something called crowdfunding, like Kiva and Solar Mosaic, where many individuals can pool their funding to invest in a solar project. There is On-bill where the utility bill can be used as the methods of payment (Hawaii is exploring this). Berkeley, California used PACE, a low interest loan for solar panels, for residential purposes. The most important goal is to ensure that we are generating reliable and affordable energy.

Planning and Zoning: Howard Slatkin, Director of Sustainability, Deputy Director of Strategic Planning, NYC Department of City Planning

Most of the basic zoning provisions were designed in 1961 and must now be changed to incorporate environmental requirements. Currently some zoning requirements discourage or prohibit green buildings, which is why they have created a solar component of Zone Green. First of all there are two ways to regulate building height: sky exposure plane and maximum height limit. By changing the zoning regulations they have allowed more flexibility for green infrastructure. These are the new regulations:

Up to 4 feet: any building can now put solar on the roofs ? Higher than 4 feet: elevated structure to allow fire fighters to pass through.

Can go up to 6 feet and are limited to 25% roof coverage (portion above 6 feet). You can also apply solar to bulkhead equipment.

For more information on zoning regulations visit: nyc.gov/zonegreen

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Panel #2: Intelligent Operations and the New York Economy

Intelligent Operations Centers: Operation and Usage: Shoel Perelman, Director of Development, Industry Software Solutions, IBM

IBM is creating software that allows people to work together and share information. For example, Rio De Janeiro where mudslides are prevalent the mayor got together representatives from all departments to predetermine a slide and warn residents. The goal of the Intelligent Operation Center is to leverage info across all city agencies and departments so that all data may be in one place. This will help to minimize the impact of disruptions and to anticipate problems. With this system agencies will be able to coordinate resources so that they may respond to issues rapidly and effectively (to establish proactive emergency management preparedness to help mitigate certain events). Some of the special features include geospatial mapping, data modeling and integration, and incident management. Examples of how Intelligent Operation Centers have been used:

Debuque: compare resource consumption with neighbors

Miami-Dade Park: compare parks’ water usage

South Bend, Indiana: to reduce combined sewer overflow incidents, manhole covers with sensors, hot spots crews to the right places for maintenance

SMART NY: Check waiting times for a permit

Intelligent Energy Planning: Ariella Maron, Depudy Commissioner for Energy Management, Department of Citywide Administrative Services

Energy is data driven. You need to know what data you need to make decisions, where you can get the data, and how you should analyze it. Hubs were created to oversee efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 (from 2006 FY06 baseline). We need information to track greenhouse gas emissions. An integrated approach is to use benchmark data to prioritize facilities and track building performance over time. They hope to identify cost- effective retrofits based on audit findings and use real-time data to inform operational decisions and better manage peak loads. Utility data will be released to allow for better management, accountability, and recognition. Problem areas are in small buildings. EC3 was developed to allow better communication between agencies so they may be able to improve and find their mistakes. The enterprise metering system will offer real time info and analysis so that we may look for trends and identify issues, and it will conveniently operate on the city’s wireless network. Training is critical; 1250 people have been trained and CUNY has been helping with the building operator certification. With this there has been $42 million in energy savings. These efforts have resulted in 5-10% reduction in energy use year after year. Most important points: know what you want, why, and what technology you need, take time to get quality data, do not start out too big, and institute IT project management best practices for any data related effort.

The New York Solar Economy: Vincent Cozzolino, Founder and CEO, the Solar Energy Consortium

There is an effort by the Consortium to get the solar technology manufactured in the US. The Solar Energy Consortium is a SunShot partner. So far Solar Liberty and Hudson Energy are the two biggest manufacturers of solar products. California is currently leading the way in terms of the number of solar jobs available and New York is currently ranked 15th. Manufacturers in the US are highly automated, which is why we need skilled automators rather than cheap labor, as in China. Governor Cuomo started the NY Sun Initiative, which aims to have 300% growth in annual PV installation by 2013. NYSERDA funding for PV will be doubled to $432 million over the next 4 years and NYSERDA and NYPA are collaborating in a NY-Sun balance-of- system (BOS) initiative. Everyone is thinking about initiatives from an economic standpoint. The Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC) is looking into what will be next for the solar industry.

Afternoon Keynote: Robert M. Hallman, NYS Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment

Our biggest concerns currently as a society are economic development and jobs. We need to make sure we achieve our goals for a clean energy program, making compatible economics and sustainability. Some of the challenges in New York City include: aging buildings, upgrades on grid system, high price electricity and low natural gas prices. We live with constant uncertainties about the costs of renewable energy and clean energy policy. The following are initiatives that are working towards greening New York City energy:

  • Power NY is an initiative to reform the power plant siting process and to put in place emissions standards.
  • The Energy highway initiative is focused on suppling and upgrading transportation. There are 170 project proposals that we need to work through and create an action plan for. There are task forces to decide on the action plan by the end of the summer
  • A master plan for energy efficiency has been established for state buildings. There has been authorization of 500 million dollars and there has been great support from NYPA. $350 million have been given to help local governments and municipalities to upgrade buildings.
  • The financing bill is being used to encourage residential and small businesses to do audits, to increase efficiency, and to get funding.
  • NY has been a leader in renewables with 2000 MW excluding hydro. The attention is now turning to solar.
  • NY Sun initiative has increased investment in and keeps an eye on fluctuations in prices. They hope to have flexible and balanced policies, doubling solar installations by the end of this year, triple by next year, and have agreed to double investments to $800 million a year, which would be $32 billion dollars over the next few years. This will be enhanced by the competitive procurement.
  • Long island has a standard rebate program. There will be $15 million to support 35 MW in solar facilities.
  • NYPA plans to use a feed-in tariff program over 20 years. They will invest 12- 15 million dollars in this program. NYPA plans to standardize the permitting process while NYSERDA and NYPA have teamed up to address the balance of system costs. They plan to focus on areas of research, development, training and demo projects.
  • The State Energy Planning Process is preparing a comprehensive energy plan, due by September 1st. There will then be 10 public hearings for stakeholder input.

Panel #3: Shaping the New Energy Equation Moderator: Wilson Rickerson, CEO, Meister Consultants Group

We have gone past expectations in terms of solar and renewable energy technology in general. We often get it wrong when predicting where we are going to go in the future. Germany last year went from 6% to 20% renewables and they plan to be at 80% by 2050. Germans do not have a demand response strategy where mechanisms are used to manage consumer electricity consumption in response to supply conditions. New York City is aware of the societal requirements needed to absorb the changes that come as a result of renewable energy systems.

PlaNYC and Energy: Steven Caputo, Jr., Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Long- term Planning and Sustainability

It is expected that there will be over 1 million more people coming to NYC in the next decade. The Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability has 3 goals: air quality (peak summer days, a lot of harmful emissions, cleanest air quality, get rid of heavy heating oil), Energy (cleaner energy supply, more efficient), and climate change (30% clean energy by 2030). Most of the positive change will come from efficient buildings and clean energy. The deeper challenge is how do we get to 80% renewables by 2050? (There currently is a NYCERDA grant used to develop plans for 80% renewables).


1. Create an energy data marketplace: the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. NYC’s landmark energy efficiency laws. Greater than 2 billion square feet in NYC has been benchmarked. We will publicize the energy use of buildings. Go to nyc.gov/cleanheat to see buildings that are using dirty fuel (honestbuildings.com).

2. Coordinate buildings and utility investments:, install solar performance data monitoring network on solar sites to have an active real stream data. We can then see how solar performs. We need to create economies of scale for gas system investments as there has been a huge growth in demand. NYC Clean Heat is working to cluster buildings to minimize costs.

3. Foster innovation through public-private partnerships: the city is trying to get the model to work here. They are receiving energy financing through NYCEEC (New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation). They will use a pool of money to leverage private financing.

Energy Planning: Ronny Sandoval, Senior Specialist, Energy Efficiency, Con Edison

New York City requires 13 000 MW for peak demand. In an electric system you have: the generation station, transmission substations, transmission lines, area substations, transformers, and then the homes. Con Edison has a load relief planning process that is done for the 10-year horizon and ensures their system capacity is sufficient to meet projected growth in peak demand. Load forecasts are developed annually after each summer. We need to examine the capability of existing equipment to supply future lead growth. Demand side planning considerations: having lower demand lowers the amount of capital expenditures. Solar empowerment zones allow us to try to identify areas where the demand is almost going to pass capacity. We chose those areas that are “day-peaking” and which have sufficient square footage to accommodate solar installations. We need more info on performance of solar production during system or regional peak conditions to try to figure out where we have the greatest potential for solar.

Afternoon Conversation: SunShot, NY SUN and PlaNYC, Leveraging Federal, State and City Initiatives

Moderator: Laurie Reilly, Communications Director, Sustainable CUNY Rachel Tronstein, Deputy Director, SunShot Initiative, U.S. Department of Energy

The key is to make solar cost effective without subsidies. Subsidies are constantly changing and we want to create a predictible market.

Frank Murray, Jr., President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)

The governor is action oriented and wants to push the envelope. We need to make informed decisions if we want to achieve our goal of doubling the use of renewable energy. We need aggressive goals like this to make politics happen.

Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO, New York Power Authority

We have a history of the use of hydropower, but we are now moving slowly towards solar. The government needs to set the conditions right for innovation and for research and development so that the private sector can leverage these efforts.

Robert LiMandri, Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings

New York City is 2nd to Honolulu as the greenest city. We have the opportunity to turn buildings into energy sources. We need to make sure that energy is the primary goal in terms of the building code. We must be able to give permits more quickly and we need to educate concerning energy efficiency savings.

Sergej Mahnovski, Director of Energy Policy, New York City Office of the Mayor There have been tremendous amounts of innovation in technology and infrastructure development. We want solutions to be cost effective, enhance reliability and reduce environmental pollution. In NYC 80% of emissions come from buildings. The city’s role is to support capital investment and to spend money efficiently. One way of doing this is to expand tax abatement for efficiency investment.

Topics of Discussion

What can we do to make solar more current:

We have a grassroots kind of opportunity where we can make investments in buildings and people make investments in their home. There have been issues in the past with solar in certain areas and we must make sure that people know that it works and can get reliable information.

New York has 200 MW of renewable energy, which is more than NJ, CT and MA combined. We are advancing in terms of solar in a smart way. We are trying to build incrementally and try different approaches (without subsidies) as a more sustainable method. New Jersey only has solar but New York is going to pursue all renewable technologies that makes economic and environmental sense in research and development.

Grid Parity

We have seen large cost decreases, and renewables are getting close to grid parity with conventional fuels. Solar has only become more challenging because of cheap natural gas. The key is to find those locations where solar has more value.

Side Note on C40 Cities:

C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) is a network of large and engaged cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally. The organization’s global field staff works with city governments, supported by technical experts across a range of program areas.

The current chair of the C40 is New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg who – with the support the C40 executive leadership team – guides the work of the C40, along with the members of the C40 Steering Committee: Berlin, Hong Kong, Jakarta,

Johannesburg, Los Angeles, London, New York City, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Tokyo. A total of 58 global cities are members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Climate Leadership Group. C40 Cities, 2011. Available at http://www.c40cities.org/.

OHRLLS Side Event: The Role of Clean and Renewable Energy in Promoting a Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS

OHRLLS Side Event:
The Role of Clean and Renewable Energy in Promoting a Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS

UN Headquarters, New York, NY
Conference Room 7, North Lawn Building
May 2, 2012

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Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra (Undersecretary-General and High Representative for the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS)

We must acknowledge the difficulties LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS are facing in light of climate change. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has acknowledged the need to move towards cleaner energy solutions, and has started an initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative’s objectives are to achieve: universal access to modern energy services, since 1.3 billion lack electricity and 40% of the world population relies on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste to cook their food; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, which will create jobs, foster economic growth and improve energy security for countries that lack domestic fossil fuel resources; and finally to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, since the cost of clean energy technologies are rapidly falling and becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels.

Roma Stibravy (President of NGO Sustainability, Inc.)

Ms. Stibravy related that she has been working in the field of renewable energy since the early 1990s. Man made climate change is more evident as witnessed, for example, by increasing natural disasters. Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992, set the goals. Twenty years later we can better study climate change and measure its consequences. In the Intersessional  and Informal negotiations for Rio+20, an enabling environment and innovation have been off repeated themes. It is important to not only nurture technologies that succeed, but we must also nurture even the ones that fail as a learning experience to build on. We cannot do things the way they have been done in the past. There are an number of increasing communities or countries committing to a more sustainable future. The Scandinavian countries have made a commitment to becoming climate neutral by 2050. For the past 16 years an island in the Canary’s has been using almost exclusively geothermal energy. Over 26% of Iceland’s electrical energy is generated from geothermal sources. In addition, geothermal heating is used to heat 87% of home in Iceland. Samoso, an Island in Denmark, is running on 100% renewable energy. Sonoma Mountain Village, California, aims to emit 0 carbon, produce 0 waste, use 0 ground water. The Village also now has the largest privately owned solar array in California. One of the local businesses, Coddling Steel Frames Solutions, produces no waste and runs on 100% solar power. We see that 100% renewable future is possible!

Dr. George Assaf (Director of the office and Representative of UNIDO to the UN and other International Organizations)

The issue of climate change and renewable energy is timely and important for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS. They have been the hardest hit by energy and food prices. Developed economies are the biggest users of energy, but developing countries are rapidly catching up and there is acceleration in their demand for energy, which is coupled with their rising population levels. Industry, in general, is a major consumer of energy.

Energy is at the heart of all environmental issues today. LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS need to expand their access to reliable and modern energy sources to reduce poverty, and increase growth. Currently 1.5 billion have no access to electricity.

For SIDS, which are the most impacted by climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of great urgency. In the face of the continuous threat of king tides, hurricanes and cyclones, SIDS are under a serious time pressure to take action. For people in SIDS, climate change poses a very real threat of obliterating their habitat and unique cultures. All SIDS are rich in local wind and solar energy but transition costs are a major barrier.

The Istanbul Declaration and Program of Action emanating from the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs in May 2011, expressed deep concern that the ongoing impacts of commodity and energy are threatening the development gains that LDCs have made so far. With regards to climate change, the Istanbul Declaration calls for the necessary mobilization and provision of additional, adequate, and predictable financial resources to address the adaptation and mitigation needs of LDCs. It welcomes the decision to set up the Green Climate Fund.

At the Informal negotiations for Rio+20 Member States are striving to consolidate their positions on issues pertaining to the green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development. We need stronger political commitments and concrete actionable measures.

UNIDO believes that Rio+20 offers a unique opportunity for the launch of concrete initiatives. Initiatives such as the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and UNIDO’s Green Industry Initiative demonstrate renewed commitment to concrete action to achieve tangible progress in the next two decades. Developing countries should be able to leapfrog conventional energy options and move directly to cleaner energy alternatives that will greatly enhance economic and social development.

The Secretary-General has recently launched his Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiatives. A High-Level Group on SE4All was set up in September last year to achieve three energy goals by 2030: 1) ensure universal access to modern energy services; 2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; 3) double the share of renewable energy in the total global energy mix. Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO, has been requested by the Secretary-General to co-chair this important group along with Mr. Charles Holliday, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of America.

Energy efficiency means reducing the depletion of natural resources, and decreasing the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. As a strategy to promote greater ownership of renewable energy technologies in developing countries and assist countries in addressing barriers to market-based dissemination of renewable energy, energy efficient technologies and services, UNIDO has established “technology transfer platforms” that provide direct support to developing countries.

UNIDO has also recently established, in Africa, the ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), based in Cape Verde. It has a pivotal role in obtaining the necessary funding to get renewable projects off the ground and to encourage the creation of energy efficiency markets in the region, and supports national bodies in 15 ECOWAS countries to put in place the appropriate policies and strategies to improve access to clean energy, work to attract crucial private sector investment, and provide technical training

Ms. Elizabeth Press: Senior Program Officer, IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency)

IRENA works to promote the widespread and increased adoption and the sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy. We encourage the involvement of governments, public and private organizations, academics and members of the media. There have been rapid transitions in the fields of human endeavor and there have been ongoing changes in our consumption and energy use.

Over the years there have been increasing advances in technology puting sustainable energy within reach. Renewables have been important for governments everywhere. IRENA is aiming to become a global hub of knowledge where we provide roadmaps to renewable energy.

There are great opportunities in Africa and in Island States, where renewables can provide the least costly means for energy generation. There are some islands in Scandinavia that are a lighthouse, showing the possibilities of renewables. In addition to this other countries, like Nauru, have made a commitment to becoming fully renewable by 2015. IRENA is aimed at helping governments overcome barriers to the implementation of sustainable energy.

2012 is the year of Sustainable Energy for All and is being prominently addressed in all the UN’s activities. IRENA is actively helping in bringing universal access to modern energy sources, by 2030, especially for the 3 billion people without access to energy. We think this is possible as long as we have: 1. Political will, 2. the right legislative framework in place, and 3. the stimulation of the market which will come along with the first two, and will come from the private sector. It is evident that the world is changing and we must recognize that climate change, energy security, and poverty are all connected. We hope one day that renewable energy will be equitably spread around the world.

Question Period

Biomass energy was not brought up in the discussions, yet it is an important energy source in LDCs, especially in terms of accessibility. In answer to the question about biomass energy, it is another important source that is being promoted.

Lee Bloom, Royal Holdings, is a real estate developer. In the past 4 years they have been developing renewable energy businesses in Africa. They found that African countries, being rich in minerals, can use these resources for their renewable energy needs.

Partnerships are very important, and can be connected with loans from World Bank or other development banks. Capacity building is very important, as is accessing partners for investment.

If you exclude biomass energy, 8% of energy today is by renewables. There is a lot of emphasis on linking types of energy with productive uses of energy.

A representative from Aruba said that they will reach 50% renewable energy by next year.

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Closing Remarks


Islands have a very small market and they don’t promote a lot of investment interest. There are economic and geographical similarities among all SIDS, therefore work can also be done in partnerships. There are three important areas: 1. research (costing, standards, strategies, road map for renewable energy for 2030) 2. knowledge management (how the product can be useful and how it can be applied, assessments, see how to assist governments) 3. policy and capacity building (how to do it, who can help). Today, there is a lot of potential in developing countries for renewable energy projects.


The most important issues are: how do we involve the private sector, and does it pay to invest in renewable energy. In terms of renewable energy it is very important to link countries advanced in this process with the ones less advanced in this process. In terms of LLDC we must increase awareness about how vital renewable energy is. UNIDO has many programs renewable energy programs including hydro energy. The key focus is on assisting in the development of an energy strategy that best uses your resources. It is fundamental to involve the private sector in conjunction with international assistance for maximum funding possibilities.

We have to realize that to invest, the project has to at least be as profitable as any other investment. The US Department of Energy says that energy efficiency pays. They calculated that most payback periods for small scale projects are between 1 and 5 years. In terms of the World Bank’s 455 renewable energy projects, 80% have recovered their capital in 13 months, and on average the internal rate of return on projects was 25%. Smaller scale projects are much more profitable while larger scale projects are not as profitable and require a lot more effort to make them work. Therefore there is tremendous scope for smaller scale projects.


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Roma Stibravy closed with a reference to Star Island, a resort being developed in the Bahamas as 100% renewable. As an example of what renewable energy means, just after a hurricane created a mass power outage in the Bahamas, Star Island was all lit up. The Island is powered by solar and wind. Not only in disasters, but also to protect the future of our planet 100% renewables by 2050 is a reasonable goal for all.