Full Title: Assessment of Backup Diesel Generators in New York City
Author(s): Joshua R. Castigliego, Sagal Alisalad, Tanya Stasio, Elizabeth A. Stanton
Publisher(s): Applied Economics Clinic
Publication Date: August 20, 2021
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Largely excluded from emissions inventories and often unreported to state and local authorities, New York City’s vast and poorly documented fleet of backup diesel generators makes our air dirty, contributes to climate change, and is disproportionately sited in our most vulnerable communities. Diesel generators, or diesel generating sets, consist of a diesel engine and an electric generator that produce electricity. Emergency, or backup, diesel generators are used to supply electricity when power from the grid is unavailable during a power outage or other service disruption. Reliable backup power is important to electric customers—especially hospitals, fire stations, and other essential buildings/services—and will become more important as climate change increases the frequency of severe weather events that lead to power outages.
While reliable, uninterrupted power is increasingly indispensable for businesses and residents, backup diesel generators are currently one of the dirtiest remaining electricity generating technologies in New York City. Alternative technologies exist, such as clean distributed energy resources that provide the same essential service, without the high costs associated with releasing harmful pollutants into the air.
This report demonstrates that there is an abundance of backup diesel generators throughout New York Citythat are commonly sited near EJ communities and represent a considerable—and largely avoidable—source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that threatens public health and the environment.