News Press

Partnership Testimony on Prohibiting the Use of Fossil Fuels in New Buildings

November 17, 2021


Katy Feinberg


[email protected]

Today, the Partnership submitted testimony on New York City Council Intro. 2317, which would prohibit the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and buildings that undergo major renovations.

Thank you Chair Gennaro and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify on Int. 2317 which would prohibit the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and buildings that undergo major renovations. The Partnership for New York City represents private sector employers of more than one million New Yorkers. We work together with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as the preeminent global center of commerce, innovation and economic opportunity.

The Partnership has actively engaged in efforts to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, increase resiliency and support transition to renewable energy. We have participated in the city’s OneNYC 2050 Advisory Board, One City: Built to Last Technical Working Group and Urban Green Council’s 80×50 Buildings Partnership. We support Int. 2317’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. We are concerned, however, that there is little clarity around the potential volatility of operating costs of all-electric buildings. We also believe that the timeline for compliance is too short and that the inclusion of building renovation will impose hardship on owners and tenants of older buildings that require upgrading but cannot manage the conversion to all-electric.

Requiring conversion to all-electric buildings at this time is particularly risky since it corresponds to emergence from a global pandemic that has disrupted the supply chain and unleashed inflation. These factors, along with the transition to renewables as our energy source, will introduce a lot of uncertainty in the costs of construction and building operations in the next few years. Int. 2317 should be amended to provide greater flexibility in the time for implementation and to allow the shift to all-electric buildings to be halted or slowed if it turns out that implementation will retard the city’s economic recovery goals or place additional hardship on homeowners and tenants, who pay 50% more for electricity than the national average.

The two-year timeline for implementation of Int. 2317 could also result in higher emissions in the short term since most of New York City’s electricity is currently generated from fossil fuels. Until a greater share of the grid is powered by renewable energy sources, increased electricity use will require greater reliance on older and dirtier power plants.

The legislation should phase in the fossil fuel ban over a longer period, perhaps using a schedule based on building height. The idea would be to electrify taller and larger buildings, which are more complex and expensive to build and operate, more gradually. Many large new developments that will seek building permits in two years are already far along in design, planning and land use approvals. Moreover, advancements in designs, equipment and technology are necessary to successfully electrify taller buildings and may also help to reduce costs. Additional time will also allow for energy code updates to ensure efficiency in all-electric construction and the expansion of the renewable energy grid needed to support these buildings.

Int. 2317 should also be modified to ensure that the fossil fuel ban only applies to new buildings. Electrifying existing buildings – such as NYCHA and older regulated affordable housing — could impede repairs and make financing difficult.

We urge the Council to consider these important modifications to Int. 2317 and we look forward to working together to ensure that the city’s transition to all-electric buildings is successful.