Why Building Electrification?

Urban Green’s annual conference, It's ElectrifyingExploring NYC’s Climate Plan to Electrify Buildings, will explore the role that electrifying buildings and systems can play on the path to 80x50.

This year, building electrification has been on the minds of many involved in NYC building policy.

About 60 percent of NYC building emissions are from burning fossil fuels on-site in buildings, primarily for heating and hot water. Deep carbon reductions will only be possible if we dramatically reduce this. This probably means eventually shifting these building systems from using fossil fuels to using electricity (building electrification). These observations underlay Urban Green’s 90 by 50 study and the City of New York’s subsequent 80 x 50 report.

This represents a big look ahead—thinking today about where we need to be decades from now.

And if we’re serious about reaching our energy reduction goals, it’s not too early to begin these conversations. There are huge questions that will take time to work through. What are the grid implications for building electrification? Does the necessary technology exist? How would these electric systems interface with existing building infrastructure?

Some might think these are primarily questions for government. We don’t think so. Governments come and go, and to achieve decades-long plans, we also need to engage the private sector and civic institutions with decades-long agendas and perspectives.

Under PlaNYC, New York City demonstrated for cities everywhere the power of data for planning and the importance of focusing on the largest buildings first. Now, under OneNYC, we hope to demonstrate how to think carefully and critically about our long-term path—and the near-term steps that will take us in that direction.

I hope you will join us on October 4th for a closer look at this critical topic.  

About the author

Russell Unger
Russell Unger is Executive Director of Urban Green Council.