NYC Climate Mobilization Act – Be in line or pay the fine!

STEEP FINES FOR NEW YORK’S NON-GREEN BUILDINGS

Amidst facing complexities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, building owners in New York City have an additional task of complying with the “Green New Deal”- Climate Mobilization Act of 2019, in order to reduce carbon emissions and consequently avoid the heavy financial penalties for noncompliance. The part of the “deal” that impacts noncompliant building owners, is Local Law 97 that explicitly defines carbon emissions limits for buildings over 25,000 square feet. The buildings, based on their types, must meet annual carbon intensity limits during each compliance period. Local Law 97, the game changer of the NYC real estate industry, is intended to help New York City reach its goals of achieving a 40 percent and 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and 2050 respectively. Its enforcement and penalties are set to begin in 2024 wherein the building owners must submit an emissions intensity report as prescribed by the law or face hefty annual fines.

Initially, Greener, Greater Buildings Plan was introduced in 2009 with an agenda to reduce carbon emissions by regular energy audits and retro-commissioning, that now provides a roadmap to achieve the targets set out in Local Law 97.

LL 97 compliance or Multimillion-dollar penalties?

Local Law 97 establishes greenhouse gas emissions limits for the years 2024 to 2029 and 2030 to 2034. For instance, buildings in the Occupancy Group R-1 category (includes hotels) can only emit up to .00987 tons of carbon dioxide per square-foot for calendar years 2024 through 2029, whereas, for calendar years 2030 to 2034, the emissions limit for the same category falls to .00526 tons of carbon dioxide per square-foot. As per the law, building owners whose properties exceed the emissions limit are subjected to penalties. Another relevant mandate under LL 97 is that, starting from May 1, 2025, (every May 1st after that) building owners are required to file a report with the department, certified by a registered design professional, stating whether the building has complied with the emissions limit, failing which, the business owners shall be liable to pay fines.

PACE financing program- Forward thinking investment

 

With accelerating need for curbing greenhouse emissions, New York City approved ‘property assessed clean energy’ (PACE) ordinance to help building owners finance their retrofitting projects through low or no interest loans, whereby the obligation of repayment is attached to the building and not to the owner. The idea is that the building owners pay off the loan out of their funds saved from opting efficiency upgrades and thus, incurring no extra costs. PACE can both increase value of the property and save owner’s money by reducing energy costs. However, implementation of PACE program has been delayed owing to several reasons, but most importantly due to Covid-19 crises.

Energy Efficient Retrofits NYC

Decarbonising the Energy Sector

 

Procurement of enough renewable electricity to balance building’s emissions seems to be a daunting task. Local Law 97 permits building owners to meet up to 100 percent of their compliance obligations by buying renewable power, provided that, the electricity must feed directly into New York City’s grid. The proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line carries hydropower from Quebec south to New York City. By the mid-2020s, electricity from wind farms offshore Long Island should begin replacing zero-carbon power from the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Energy Efficiency Retrofits

While the cost for retrofits would seem as an added cost for building owners, the same would be recovered at a belated stage by reduced operating expenses. In order to meet the challenges ahead, building owners must do retrofits differently, and at a large scale. Invention of new technologies and new business models with labour and professional services will flourish significant changes. Many changes lay ahead, but there’s also an enormous opportunity for market growth if we invest now.

As a matter of fact, primary concern for everyone at present is the impact of COVID-19 but 2024 is right around the corner and retrofits cannot just happen for a building overnight. It is important to understand where these buildings stand at this point, so as to evaluate potential future risks and penalties. Therefore, if the compliances are not done any sooner, there will be a rush towards the deadlines, therefore resulting in heavy penalties.