Shining Light On The Blackout
One year and two and a half weeks ago this week, on August 13, 2003, New York City experienced the worst electrical blackout in its history. In less than five minutes, a city of more than 8 million people plunged into darkness. The blackout cost New York City more than $1 billion, including $800 million in lost economic activity and $250 million in destroyed perishable goods.
While the blackout’s origins have been traced to a utility company in the Midwest, the event highlights the fundamental importance of taking steps to ensure New York City’s energy security.
Currently, the City has enough energy to meet its needs. A recent study, however, estimated that New York City will need 3,800 megawatts of new electricity by 2008. (One megawatt is roughly the energy needed to power 1,000 average-sized homes). Without this energy, New Yorkers face a future of enormous price spikes and more—and more devastating—blackouts.
In the year since the blackout, the City Council has taken decisive steps to avert the looming energy shortfall and secure our energy future. The Council has adopted a forward-thinking agenda on energy that includes legislation that:
* encourages clean, on-site energy generation by identifying opportunities to install solar, wind, fuel cells, and other types of clean, on-site electricity production;
* advances “green buildings” by requiring that construction or renovation of city buildings meet aggressive standards for energy efficiency;
* creates an energy shortage emergency plan to ensure the public is adequately protected in the event of an energy shortage; and
* establishes an Office of Energy Policy that will focus solely on creating and implementing the City’s energy policy and plans.
This groundbreaking agenda reflects the Council’s commitment to helping the City meet its pressing energy needs through the most readily available, cost- effective and cleanest energy options. It also reflects the seriousness with which the City Council takes its role in ensuring that New York City has access to dependable sources of electricity.
As the blackout of 2003 reminded us, energy is the very lifeblood of New York. The City Council is working hard to assure that the City’s electricity keeps flowing and our energy future continues to be bright.
City Councilmember James F. Gennaro is chair of the council Committee on Environmental Protection, and a member of the Higher Education, Mental health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services, Sanitation & Solid Waste Management and Youth Services committees. He represents the 24th Council District, which includes Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Hillcrest Estates, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hill, Kew Gardens Hills, and Utopia Estates and parts of Flushing, Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Forest Hills and Cedar Grove.