2012-04-25 / Front Page

Energy Use Reviewed At LICP Breakfast

By Thomas Cogan

The Long Island City Partnership April breakfast meeting was a forum on reduction of energy use in New York buildings. It featured a panel of speakers, overseen by Ann Kayman and George Crawford, principals of New York Grant Co. Green Partners. Since the energy-use directives initiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration have gone into effect, or been projected, there has been a need to review constantly what has been done and what must be done, on the road to the target date of 2030.

Crawford opened the meeting by asking what it would be like if each building owner in New York was given $100,000 to upgrade his property, a rhetorical question greeted with murmurs of skepticism. Crawford was referring to Local Law 85 of 2010, which mandates that all renovation projects comply with current energy codes, eliminating the exemption that had come into play when only half the property or less was being renovated. Thus, renovation is now unavoidable, and the NYC Energy Efficiency Corporation has $40 million from the federal Department of Energy to finance it, and other funding is making itself available. Crawford showed a chart of buildings in Queens that are now between 50 and 60 years old, saying that despite their similarities, some buildings spend twice as much for energy as others. A coalition of building owners could get up-front money for all and reach a designated goal for complying with codes, he said.

First of the panelists to speak was Sree Shah, head of E-Luminate, a New Jersey company in the light-emitting diode (LED) business. Diodes last 10 times as long as old luminescent lighting and are much cheaper, Shah said. Lighting is about a fifth of the energy expense in most buildings, and LED can lower energy costs quite significantly, he added. He referred to how E-Luminate installed LED illumination in a parking garage, which lowered its expense hugely. After a two-year payback period, the garage had a 46 percent saving. With financing, the payback period dropped by two-thirds, and showed a LED replacement rate of return of more than 169 percent.

The second panelist was Angel Gonzalez of Petro heating oil and air conditioning company.  He turned immediately to Local Law 43, signed in 2011, which sought to drive high-sulfur No. 6 heating oil from the market as fast as possible. No. 6 has been banned as of 2015, and low-sulfur No. 4 oil’s use expires by 2030, which allows some companies to get off No. 6 and go with No. 4 for 18 years while converting to No. 2 oil, which is cleaner but more expensive and requires equipment modification. He said there is no need for conversion anxiety; get an energy audit that considers lighting and window factors and will ultimately save expense.
The third panelist was Michael Weisberg of M-Core Credit Corporation, who began by saying that boiler conversion, chimney lining and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) can all be financed. Boiler conversion is important to those busily switching from oil to natural gas because at the moment it is half the price of oil. Other energy measures that M-Core finances include flat top roof replacement and solar energy, Weisberg said.
Green Power Solutions President Thomas Gately,  the next panelist, recited the strengths of solar thermal collector systems and illustrated the installation of a solar heating system at a school in Whitestone. He said that he is in a “sweet spot” at the moment because of a dramatic drop in solar energy expenses in recent years. A building that goes with solar photovoltaic cells has energy rates locked in and not subject to the vicissitudes of the energy market, he concluded.

The last panelist, Jonathan Greshin, spoke of money for financing, or “all you’ve heard about” from previous speakers. He said New York state has about $1 billion for that purpose, working through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). He also said that early application for financing is crucial. A building in Lower Manhattan got as much as $1.3 million from NYSERDA for a wide range of conversion, he said; so apply early, there’s much to learn.

Ann Kayman added a note about NYSERDA, saying that it can contribute to half a borrower’s loan and charge no interest on the payback, though for the other half of the expense, the borrower must deal with a financing source and the interest it charges. This applies even to a large scale retrofit, she said. She then spoke of a plan where the expense of retrofitting could be a line item on the company or building’s energy bill. On the other hand, Arthur Pearson of Lockheed Martin spoke from the audience to say he has found Con Edison easier to deal with in financing retrofitting than NYSERDA.

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