This is a good time for City Hall, and the city as a whole, to focus on using energy more efficiently.
There are many reasons to do so. For one, energy costs have
been skyrocketing, and promise to rise even more
steeply. The price of oil is already way up, and Con
Edison is trying to get a rate increase of 6.7
Pollution also looms as a large threat. This summer,
New York City joined eight states in announcing a
lawsuit against five major polluters, whom they charge
with contributing to global warming. These companies
alone -- American Electric Power Company; the Southern
Company; Tennessee Valley Authority; Xcel Energy Inc.;
and Cinergy Corporation -- are responsible for ten
percent of the nation's total carbon dioxide
"There is no dispute that global warming is upon us
and that these defendants' carbon dioxide pollution is
a major contributor," says Attorney General Eliot
At the same time, the demand for energy is increasing.
In recent years, the number of electrical appliances in homes and offices (especially computers) has increased significantly. In August 2003, the high demand for
energy led to a major blackout. While
New York’s energy systems are some of the most modern,
the state’s reserve of energy is 40 percent lower than
regulators say it should be. That is one reason why power companies are proposing the construction of up to 15 more power plants in New York City.
Thus, reducing energy use would save money,
prevent blackouts, reduce the need to build new power
plants, and could also improve local air quality.
And one way to reduce energy use is to increase energy efficiency.
There are some computers â€“ and air conditioners and lights and household appliances and industrial motors â€“ that run more efficiently than others. Most newer computers have software that can automatically save power when the computer has not been used for a certain amount of time. Experts also advocate for greater use of such cleaner and more efficient energy sources as solar power and wind power, as well as fuel cells. Frank Morris of
the Sierra Club believes that better management of the
demand for energy could reduce the city’s energy use
by 35 percent.
Currently, there is a
pending in the New York City Council that would create a new energy policy office.
The law would require the city to develop a comprehensive energy policy, assess
the efficiency of
energy use in city facilities, set goals for the
reduction of energy use, encourage energy conservation
and the use of fossil fuel alternatives by both the
public and private sector, and promote public awareness
of the efficient use of energy.
One could reasonably question how effective this office would be, however, in light of the difficulties over another bill being considered by the City Council, which encourages City Hall to get its own house in order.
The bill focuses
specifically on the use of city-owned computers. The city
owns some 100,000 personal computers and office equipment, which could be made
more efficient â€“ and save some $1.4 million on energy costs â€“ through the use of power-saving software.
But the city agency in charge of the computers, the Department of Information Technology and
Telecommunications (DoITT), opposes the legislation.
The city’s vast information technology
infrastructure “makes the implementation of the
proposed initiative difficult to deploy and enforce,”
testified Ron Bergmann, a deputy commissioner at
DoITT. “Agencies largely administer their own
computer operations and have a diverse array of
equipment, operating systems and applications.”
Laura Forlano is a doctoral student studying communication technology policy at Columbia University.Â
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