Recap: New York Q2, Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization

- Vishant Kothari, AEG Fellow

New York Advanced Energy (NYAE) hosted its Q2 stakeholder event keeping with the theme of Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization, on May 24, 2018. The event brought together diverse discussion leaders and participants to collectively take on the most pressing challenges faced by the urban energy ecosystem in New York.  The dialogue incorporated important facets to the topic, including modernizing the grid, retrofitting existing buildings, developing incentives and value propositions for building owners, and exploring policy implications.

The stakeholder breakfast began with welcoming remarks from Advanced Energy Group Founder & CEO, H.G. Chissell, and was followed by Phyllis Kessler, Of Counsel, Duane Morris. Phyllis stressed the importance of having a coordinated effort amongst stakeholders achieving the 80 by 50 emission reduction goals of New York City. She challenged the participants to think about common incentive measures that could support the ecosystem in making relevant changes. Ms. Kessler concluded with a call to align good intentions and make it more actionable for everybody involved. She was followed by the first Discussion Leader, Aaron Ordower, Senior Policy Advisor at the Mayor’s office of Sustainability.

Mr. Ordower revisited the challenge of achieving the 80 by 50 goals and importantly outlined three main strategies to maximize the impact on citywide building emission reductions: renewable energy development throughout the grid, deep energy retrofits in existing buildings, and distributed solar generation in communities. These strategies are especially relevant because if current developments continue, 90% of existing buildings today will be part of the building stock in 2050. He listed a variety of policies that have been put into place to improve building energy efficiency, such as Intro 1632A – Building Energy Grades, that will require buildings over 25,000 square feet to post an “Energy Efficiency Grade” on their building beginning May 1, 2018. To conclude Mr. Ordower shared details of a 35-building pilot project that is underway to better understand a High-Performance Retrofit, which includes upgrades to all major systems. A brief discussion regarding how to justify the high costs with long payoff periods ensued, as pure electrification would reduce GHG emissions but increase prices.

  Aaron Ordower, Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability

Aaron Ordower, Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability

  Frank Norcross, VP Hudson Yards Microgrid Company, Related Companies

Frank Norcross, VP Hudson Yards Microgrid Company, Related Companies

The next discussion leader was Frank Norcross, VP Hudson Yards Microgrid Company, Related Companies. Mr. Norcross described the benefits of cogeneration and how it has breathed new life into the transmission grid. This is crucial when we consider that about 60% of heating needs are met by cogeneration. The distribution system growth is largely supported by the emergence of electric vehicles powered through renewable sources. He concluded by suggesting the current regulatory model requires better and deeper collaboration with Con Edison. Mr. Norcross was followed by Damian ‎Sciano, Director Distributed Resource Integration, Con Edison, who reiterated the need for stronger collaboration with Con Edison for microgrid development.

  Damian ‎Sciano, Director Distributed Resource Integration, Con Edison

Damian ‎Sciano, Director Distributed Resource Integration, Con Edison

At NYAE’s Q1 2018 Stakeholder breakfast we learned about Con Edison’s distributed system platform, while Mr. Sciano focussed his discussion and insights on grid modernization. With grid modernization being an evolution of the existing system, he shared how dozens of plants are being upgraded based on data from different types of consumers and grid operators. He also stated how the existing reputation of utilities is being improved through several transparency and multi-sectoral collaboration efforts. The point was made that utilities like Con Edison need to move from a single-value platform (only delivering electrical power) to a multi-value one that can deliver a wide variety of services to build greater consumer involvement. He shared how the remote monitoring system improvement is one of many that incorporate granular data collection, consumer engagement, and energy transaction improvements. To finish, Mr. Sciano provided a glimpse into the future of grid modernization, which included distribution automation, data analytics, grid edge sensing, and more flexible resources.

Janet Martin, Director of Network Transformation at Verizon followed Damian Sciano, with her insights on Verizon's plans for modernization, including swapping copper wires for fiber optics in New York City. The task of laying fiber optics across the city is an challenging one. Considerations must include percentage of fiber built, smart city opportunities with the public and private sector, substantial energy savings, regulatory aspects, and increasing customer demand. With a goal of replacing 1 million copper wires, Verizon has laid out a comprehensive plan with the need for working closely with building owners.

Gregg Fischer, Director of Energy Systems, Tishman Speyer followed Ms. Martin.  Mr. Fischer manages about 25 million square feet of real estate in New York City within the global portfolio of Tishman Speyer. Rockefeller Centre is one such properties with a renewed attention to building systems. The property was one of the earliest adopters of the now rapidly expanding thermal storage technology. By making ice during off-peak periods (e.g. night) and storing it until chilling demand coincides with grid peaks, they can save a lot of operating costs. Mr. Fischer concluded by pointing out that example investment payback periods can be reduced from 13 to 7 years with incentives.

  John Rice, Partner, AKF Group

John Rice, Partner, AKF Group

John Rice, Partner at AKF Group, was the last discussion leader of the day. The AKF Master Concept Plan is to build a brand new diversified energy system with the goal of serving as an example for others in the utility distribution scale. A wide variety of options were explored, such as absorption chillers, steam turbines, decentralized options, thermal ice storage, batteries, and renewable energy technologies. After considering Annual Load Profile analysis and AKF's past experience with Hurricane Sandy, they decided to go ahead with cogeneration because of its added resiliency. Mr Rice concluded with exploring the next best opportunities, which included batteries and DERs.

  Gary Rahl, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton

Gary Rahl, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton

  Jennifer Kearney, Executive Partner & Founder, Gotham 360 LLC

Jennifer Kearney, Executive Partner & Founder, Gotham 360 LLC

An open discussion followed with the breakfast participants that was grounded on the insights provided by the exceptional discussion leaders. A few key takeaways from the discussion included:

  • Needed incentive improvements

  • Needed effective communication about the 80 by 50 goals and energy reduction methods

  • Importance of monetary rationale in addition to environmental towards those goals

  • An emerging global interest in battery storage technology

Most importantly, urgent action to achieve emission reductions in existing buildings through technology improvements and behavioural change was the final outcome of the insightful discussion.

  Hiroshi "Edo" Hanafusa, CEO, InsuRTAP Inc.

Hiroshi "Edo" Hanafusa, CEO, InsuRTAP Inc.

  Jenna Agins, Energy & Sustainability Specialist, NYU Langone Health

Jenna Agins, Energy & Sustainability Specialist, NYU Langone Health

Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only, to request an invitation to our Q3 event, please visit: NYAE Q3 - IoT, Technology, and Innovation - Sept. 20, 2018.  For details of our programming please visit:

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