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Panel says electricity supply is fine, but the demand is outrageous.

If you ask Robert Fox, senior principal of Fox & Fowle Architects, the energy crisis has more to do with demand than supply.

"The crisis is not in the energy supply, it's in how we use electricity," Fox explained. "We could do with an awful lot less."

While Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is busy advocating for the construction of what is being described as temporary power generators, Fox & Fowle and others in the real estate industry are finding ways to reduce the demand for electricity in commercial office buildings.

One way to conserve energy is to install motion detectors in the stairwells of office buildings. For safety reasons, stairwells are required to be lit 24 hours a day but, with a detector, lights come on only when a person is in the stairwell. If all of New York City's buildings were retrofitted with such devices, Fox estimated that 17 megawatts of energy could be saved - the same amount that is generated by one power plant.

"The crisis is conservation, not supply," he said.

Fox was among participants of "Power Shortage: Energy Explained," a panel discussion sponsored by Julien J. Studley and coordinated by GRID magazine. The April 19 breakfast event was held at the University Club.

Peter Slatin, GRID magazine editor-in-chief, moderated the panel which included Fox; Michael Colacino, executive managing director of Julien J. Studley, Inc.; Jody Durst, executive vice president of The Durst Organization; Ashok Gupta, senior scientist of the Air and Energy Department, Natural Resources Defense Council; and Alan Pomerantz, senior partner in Weil Gotshal & Manges, LLP's national and international real estate department.

With California's energy crisis fresh in the minds of many, the real estate industry is among those seeking ways to avoid a similar crisis in New York City. Con Edison has said there is adequate supply to meet the summer demand, which peaks due to the use of air conditioners. However, electricity prices will likely spike over the next few months, causing at least one panel member to describe the crisis as one of pricing rather than supply.

Although the panel did not predict problems as dire as those being experienced in California, city officials are not taking the issue lying down. Panel members agreed, however, that the real estate industry is not doing as much as it could.

Gupta said the majority of the city's demand for electricity can be attributed to lighting and air conditioning in commercial buildings and refrigerators in residential buildings.

"Over time, prices will come down but that doesn't help us now," Gupta said. "Additional supply will help reduce prices but not as much as everybody thinks."

Colacino said tenants must pay closer attention to electricity use, particularly during peak times, and establish cost estimates for downtime due to a blackout. Julien Studley estimates that for an hour of downtime in its New York City office would result in $100,000 in lost revenues.

But making small changes can save electricity. For example, lowering the air conditioner by two degrees can result in a 5 percent reduction in electricity use, he said.

"It's the peak demand that's the problem," he said.

Durst, developer of Four Times Square that has been noted for its energy savings efforts, gave a laundry list of conservation tips for building owners and managers. Among them were retrofitting florescent light fixtures with bulbs that use less electricity, installing variable speed fans with building air conditioners, installing a building management system that allows engineers to coordinate building functions from a central location, and encouraging building management to study whether buildings are being operated the way they were designed, he said.

"We have a bad name as being hogs as far as electricity consumption," Durst said. "But you can reduce operating costs."

Pomerantz said he expects the government to take action with regard to the electricity issue, either by increasing zoning or other market incentives that reward building owners for installing energy saving devices or passing new laws requiring such devices. He said building owners and managers should be prepared for the impact of these changes. "The government will address this issue somehow," he said.
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Author:KEITH, NATALIE
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 25, 2001
Words:687
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