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School of Engineering and Computing Sciences News
Nov 21 2011

Green Notes from Market Makers NYC Panel

NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences hosted “The New Energy Efficient Toolkit” on key drivers and market-based strategies to promote energy efficiency (EE) and high performance buildings. 

The second panel discussion in the “Market Makers” series was hosted on Nov. 15 and sponsored by the Sallan Foundation and the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE).

In her introductory remarks, Nancy Anderson, executive director of the Sallan Foundation, stressed that energy efficient measures enhance buildings’ operational resiliency and therefore improve their market value. Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, moderated the panel, which included Greg Hale from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Eric Friedman from Wilmer Hale, and Will Goodman from Jonathan Rose Companies.

The conversation touched on many issues including legal and market drivers to expand demand for energy efficiency projects.

Green Notes 

  • New York City is setting the pace in energy efficiency, in great part due to the city’s favorable legislative framework. The City of New York’s “Greener, Greater, Building Plan” requires large buildings to "benchmark" their energy and water consumption annually (online), mandates them to conduct energy audits every ten years and to optimize building efficiency with focused maintenance, and requires more efficient lighting technology upgrades by 2025. In addition, a new energy code requires that all new equipment installed during a renovation must meet current efficiency standards.
  • NYC’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability has launched the NYC Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) to promote energy efficiency finance and support a new wave of retrofit projects in NYC buildings. Partners include the Center for Market Innovation (CMI) and Deutsche Bank’s Community Development Financing group. Seed money ($37.5M) comes from the federal stimulus. This independent, nonprofit organization will seek additional philanthropic contributions and private sector capital to provide up-front capital to retrofit projects in commercial buildings and low-income housing. 
  • The above legislation and initiatives, in NYC and other U.S. cities, is helping to generate demand for energy efficiency. However, some challenges still remain, such as split incentives – when the landlord pays for the improvements but the cost savings accrue to the tenants – and these must be solved in order to incentivize the market for EE projects.
  •  “Green leases” address this issue, allowing landlords’ faster recoupment of their investments where tenants accrue utility bill savings. A significant education effort is required to make the case for such lease modifications.
  • To attract investors, credit instruments and enhancements for large and commercial buildings will require third party verification of the potential savings.  This highlights the need to train a cadre of energy professionals who will be available to verify energy savings from EE enhancement projects. The academic community may take the lead by offering energy management degrees and certificates.
  • One panelist said that developers and investing communities would like further documentation of cost savings before embarking on expensive and risky EE projects. A recent Deutsche Bank study of the benefits of EE provides such documentation. In addition, planned EE improvements on city-owned buildings can provide a virtual laboratory for testing and verification.  Another panelist argued that the financial community is used to dealing with uncertainty and imperfect information and that there are ways to structure the deals so as to lower the risks.
  • The new NRDC's Center for Market Innovation offers a new approach to investing in energy efficiency in large and commercial buildings. Instead of focusing on greening one business at a time, the Center aims to shape entire markets -- the electricity sector or the real-estate community -- in ways that reward green practices. To promote energy efficiency, for instance, we are helping create an asset class that will save homeowners money, reduce carbon emissions, and implement efficiency measures on a sweeping scale.
  • One speaker added that this is a good market – owners and investors see the environmental and economic value of EE projects – and the private equity sector has started to incorporate EE as part of their portfolio.
  • To continue to solve the challenge of expanding demand for EE projects, we’ll need to work with developers and landlord groups – REBNY, Downtown Alliance, Partnership for NYC, etc. Efforts should be made to translate the benefits of EE enhancements into their language – occupancy rates, lower operating costs, etc. – as exemplified by a commercial building in Portland that was able to maintain higher occupancy rates than other buildings in the area by offering “green” and energy efficient rental units. 

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