Just two days before leaving office, Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability released data indicating that New York City greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 19 percent since 2005.

According to the city, New York is well on its way toward a 30 percent reduction in citywide emissions by 2030, a major objective of PlaNYC, the Bloomberg administration’s far-reaching sustainability plan.

Carbon emissions from municipal buildings and government operations have also dropped by 19 percent said the city.

To achieve the drop in government emissions, the city has invested heavily in a “clean” vehicle fleet, and has carried out “major reductions” in fugitive emissions from landfills and wastewater treatment plants.

The city also installed 10 new solar photovoltaic arrays across the five boroughs last year, saying that it had tripled its existing solar capacity.

Public health has been enhanced by the drop in greenhouse gas emissions. New York City’s air is now cleaner than it has been in over 50 years due to the “dramatic reductions” in pollutants, said the statement from the outgoing mayor’s office.

The city attributes the drop in emissions to the “cleaner” generation of electricity and steam; reduction of heavy heating oils used in buildings; increased energy efficiency in buildings; and upgraded government operations.

Co-Generation To The Rescue

More New York City buildings are installing co-generation systems. Co-generation, a process in which “a single fuel source, such as natural gas, is used to produce both electrical and thermal energy… operates on a very basic principle: Generating electricity produces heat; cogeneration equipment captures that heat and uses it to supply hot water, steam, space heating – even cooling,” says Intelligen Power Systems, LLC, a Long Island-based power system installation firm on its website.

“Thus, an otherwise byproduct of electricity generation becomes a highly useful commodity.” As opposed to constructing new power plants, co-generation “creates power now, where you want it – and when you need it,” the company adds.

The city of New York has also mandated the gradual transition away from heavier oils to natural gas and other fuel sources, like bio-diesel, for heating and power production in buildings.

Energy use –and waste- in buildings account for a massive seventy-five percent of carbon emissions In New York City. And multi-family residential buildings are the biggest culprits, says the city. “Energy efficiency and distributed generation investments in buildings are the greatest opportunity to further reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the mayor’s office argued.

The Carbon Challenge

And in order to “accelerate” energy efficiency improvements, the city is expanding the “Carbon Challenge” to residential building owners.

The Carbon Challenge, a voluntary program, is a joint initiative with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA. It is described as a public-private partnership, and also includes local universities, hospitals and “global” companies, according to the city.

There is also a major financial incentive to greater energy efficiency and switching from oil to natural gas. Prestige Management President John Chen was quoted in the city’s release as describing the “immediate savings…to the owners, tenants and shareholders within our portfolio…while developing sustainable, cleaner and more efficient sources of energy”.

The city also says it has deployed $50 million in energy efficiency and clean energy financing products via the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation, which was launched in 2010. “Clean Energy” financing includes assisting buildings in switching to natural gas.

Natural Gas

And the supply of natural gas, a fossil fuel which has lower carbon emissions and less particulate matter than oil, is expanding because of new infrastructure projects.

The Spectra pipeline, also known as the “NJ-NY Natural Gas Expansion Project”, began delivering gas on October 21, and is the first new significant interstate pipeline to serve the city in 40 years. The pipeline, which crosses from New Jersey underneath the Hudson River to Manhattan, attracted considerable attention from environmental activists because it delivers gas from a variety of locations throughout the U.S., including areas where hydraulic fracturing is used.

Some environmental groups have argued that the focus of cities like New York should be on transitioning to renewable sources of energy immediately. But the Bloomberg administration and others have maintained that an affordable, lower carbon energy “bridge” is needed as truly renewable sources are developed to scale.

The pipeline “provides a new, more affordable source of natural gas to New Yorkers,” said the mayor’s office.