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NYBC urges legislators to follow power plan.

New York is not alone. Rolling blackout warnings in California and hundreds of thousands of citizens in St. Louis without power in July paint a picture of a nation coming to grips with the difficulties of reliably creating and distributing a commodity we so often take for granted--electricity.

In our own backyard, the prolonged power outage that plagued Queens marks the second time in the past three years that large segments of New York have endured extended periods without electricity. On numerous other occasions, including during the most recent heat wave, large City businesses and property owners voluntarily reduced their electricity usage during periods of high demand to prevent the possibility of a system overload.

While the circumstances in each instance have been different, collectively, they speak to the City's increasing vulnerability to potentially devastating power failures--a vulnerability that will only increase in the coming years as tens of thousands of new housing units come online; as sophisticated new personal and business technologies demand more power; and as major mixed-use developments, such as the World Trade Center, Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, are realized.

All will place greater strain on the power supply and the networks that must reliably distribute electricity into homes and businesses, as well as essential facilities such as subways, hospitals and schools.

The normal political response to a situation such as occurred in Queens, is to isolate the problem, offer a narrow remedy, and move on. While this approach is necessary in the short-term, we cannot miss the opportunity emergencies present to more comprehensively and strategically address the City's long-term power needs.

What is needed is a much broader approach, by both New York City and State, examining a series of interdependent challenges--from increasing electricity supply to reliable distribution and enhanced conservation. The City would be responsible for charting a course for the future while Albany must fulfill its share of the responsibility to maintain and expand the City's power supplies and related infrastructure.

Mayor Bloomberg has begun this process through his Energy Task Force, and he should immediately convene a CEO level public/ private leadership group that will provide him with an ongoing and comprehensive energy agenda for the City.

The group would be asked to come up with an immediate game plan to address projected power shortages in the coming years, as well as provide a road map for accommodating future demand. Such an ongoing review could, for instance, identify and reserve sites for power plants and develop a working plan for updating the City's aging energy infrastructure. It could also be helpful in shepherding crucial projects through the approval process.

In Albany, the Governor and the State Legislature must do the following to ensure the ongoing reliability of New York City's electricity network:

* Adopt long overdue new statewide legislation governing the expedited siting and approval of the next generation of cleaner, more efficient power plants. The prior law expired in 2002, meaning that no new power plants have started the regulatory process in four years. Such needless delays are unconscionable and send a terrible message to the financial markets about the State's commitment to power generation.

* Create stronger incentives to promote energy efficiency, clean on-site generation, peak load management and high performance building design. New York has made great strides in this area, but it is obvious that more can and must be done to conserve our resources.

* Assist in strengthening the region's electric transmission and distribution infrastructure. Given that Queens residents living across the street from working power plants lost electricity, it is obvious that investments and improvements are needed to more efficiently transmit electricity from the source to the end user.

* Ensure that power producers can obtain financing necessary to build proposed plants once approved. Marshalling the tremendous financial expertise in New York City can help identify mechanisms that can improve the prospects for power plant financing.

* Work with the private sector to create intelligence and technology within the grid, such as broadband over power line technologies that could provide real time information on system problems and breakdowns, to ensure that what happened in Queens won't happen again.

* Promote increased access to diverse and affordable supplies of fuel, such as natural gas, to generate electricity.

A great deal is at stake. Every bit of growth the City is contemplating is predicated on the availability of clean, reliable and affordable electricity. Each blackout, no matter what the cause, serves to further erode public confidence. New York is not alone as cities and states across the country grapple with similar problems, but the solutions to our problems must be derived locally, as we have historically done. The New York Building Congress Energy Committee, for instance, was created over 30 years ago to help the City respond to an energy crisis, and its membership still includes leaders of labor, management, utilities, the public sector and environmental groups.

Continued inaction in response to each blackout will only cement negative viewpoints, driving away the businesses and residents the City is counting on to fill all the apartments and offices it is planning to build over the next decade. The Governor and Mayor have led New York City to the verge of one of the greatest building booms in its history, promising to improve all facets of city life. Now is the time to make certain there is enough power to bring these plans to fruition.

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Title Annotation:Property Management
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 13, 2006
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