The New York City Council passed legislation in April 2019 to mandate that all existing buildings 25,000 square feet or larger must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. This retrofit bill (Local Law 97) was part of a package of bills called the Climate Mobilization Act. There are 50,000 buildings in New York City that the law applies to, and they are responsible for about 30% of New York City’s total greenhouse gas emissions—”a big number for a small subset of buildings,” said Costa Constantinides, the New York City Council Member who introduced the bill. Buildings that do not reach their target emission reduction numbers are subject to fines.

On July 18, 2019, OurEnergyPolicy.org brought together Council Member Constantinides, John Gilbert (a New York City real estate leader), and Robyn Beavers (an energy technology innovator) to discuss the new law and how to best address energy usage by property owners. Gilbert, COO and CTO of Rudin Management Company, said the law needed to be changed because even companies like Rudin — which has heavily invested in improving its environmental impact – face millions of dollars in fines. They already reduced their building emissions by 44% during Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and now must further reduce their emissions in other ways to comply with the law. However, Gilbert said, renewable energy is nearly impossible to purchase, and as a property owner, he cannot control how much energy his tenants use nor can he pass the fines on to them.

Beavers, CEO of Blueprint Power, sees building emissions reductions as an opportunity for unlocking a new marketplace of electricity traded and managed between buildings. This opportunity could attract new talent and new capital. Constantinides said that the climate challenge requires aggressive targets, and that achieving the law’s objectives will require this type of innovation.

This online discussion continues the conversation begun at the OEP event. Please read the event summary and listen to the event recording for greater detail. Comment with your thoughts or respond to the questions below: