Please reload

Join the Community Conversation as the Human Impacts Institute investigates Cool Roofs: What color is your roof? In a previous blog, I wrote about New York City and how it experiences the urban heat island effect. Within the post, I mentioned a few of the steps New York City has been taking in order to reduce the UHI effect, one of which is the NYC°CoolRoofs project, which was a way to reduce the amount of heat city roofs absorb from the sun throughout the day. According to the NYC°CoolRoof’s initiative, on “a typical summer day, flat, black asphalt rooftops can reach temperatures up to 190°F,” which is almost double the surrounding air temperature! This, in and of itself, portrays the amount of heat a normal roof retains and emits to its surrounding areas, and the need implent a strategy to reduce the amount. By applying a reflective white coating to roofs, one can reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the roof and subsequently “reduce internal building temperatures by 30%,” which would make the building cooler while also reducing energy costs and carbon emitted by the building from cooling mechanisms such as an air conditioner. PlaNYC says that for every 1,000 square feet of roof that is made ‘cool’, the city can reduce its carbon footpreint by 1 ton of CO2, which would not only improve air quality locally but also help reduce our affect on climate change. Cool roofs also extend the lifetime of roof. Naturally, all surfaces expand and contract due to fluctutations in temperature; a roof is not exempt from this process. Therefore, when a roofs temeperature fluctuates it also expands and contracts which affects the roof and wears it down. However, when a roof is painted with the cool roof specialized coating, it does not experience the same level of fluctuations as a black roof would! It is important to note that painting a roof white is not the same as treating it with the coating material. While painting a roof white does increase the reflectivity and reduces the absorptive properties of the roof, the coating material utilized by the NYC°CoolRoofs initiative is distinctive in that it provides a higher reflectivity rate than traditional white paint would and also has high infrared emissivity. Solar reflectivity refers to the roofs ability to reflect visible infrared, and ultraviolet waves while infrared emissivity indicates the roofs ability to emit the rays that it has absorbed. When a surface is able to ‘let-go’ of or emit the heat that it has absorbed at a faster rate, this will allow the surface to be cooler and also allow the building itself to be cooler. Overall, there is no downside to cooling a roof. You reduce energy costs, ensure a longer lifetime for a buildings cooling equipment (air conditioners), reduce the amount of electrical power used by the building, lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions New York City has already coated 1,586,5744 square feet in roofs and you can easily get involved by convincing your building owner to coat your roof, coat your own roof, or volunteer to help other coat their roofs! By doing so, you will be helping New York City reach its goal in reducing 30% of emissions by the year 2030! Check out the 2010 annual NYC°CoolRoofs review. By Muge ‘Mugzy’ Undemir, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Climate and Coalition Building Intern

August 2, 2011

The Human Impacts Institute investigates New York City’s largest energy service provider.According to Consolidated Edison, Inc. (Con Edison), the company “is committed to meeting the current and future energy needs of our customers in a safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sound manner”, which is not dissimilar to the most basic and general definition of sustainable development: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“.



So how well is Con Edison adhering to its mission?


Con Edison delivers electricity to more than 3 million customers and natural gas to more than a million customers. In an interview with a customer assistance representative of Con Edison, S. Jenkins, he stated that Con Edison no longer makes energy to supply to its customers; the company buys its energy from other supplier, such as NRG Energy, Reliant Resources, and KeySpan. Additionally, a subsidiary of Con Edison, Con Edison Solutions, supplies renewable energy options for New Yorkers at slightly higher rates. Jenkins also stated that the percentage of energy supplied to New Yorkers by coal, gas, nuclear, solar, or other types of energy sources varies based on what suppliers had the lowest price each month and their individual production sources of energy.


In 2010, Con Edison emitted 4,270,000 tons of direct greenhouse gas emissions, largely from its steam generating stations. Since this number only takes direct GHG emissions into account, the question of the overall greenhouse gases emissions emitted from energy production and supply in NYC remains. What we do know is that greenhouse gas emissions from NYC buildings made up 75% of total citywide GHG emissions in 2009.


As New York’s largest energy-delivery provider, Con Edison has taken steps to balance out associated detrimental effects to the environment and community health. Con Edison presents its customers with tips to make them more energy efficient, advising them on how to inspect and care for their homes. The company provides tools to measure energy costs, such as the Home Energy Calculator, which “analyzes home energy use and the savings that can result from a variety of energy-efficiency measures”.


Con Edison also offers both residential and business customers ways to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. Residential customers are entitled to rebates on high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, free or subsidized efficiency upgrades for targeted neighborhoods, and more. For business customers, Con Edison offers free energy surveys and incentives for equipment upgrades, financial incentives for reducing its energy use during peak periods, and more.


For customers looking into alternatives to gas-powered vehicles, Con Edison provides information on the different types of electric vehicles, home charging options, and the factors that affect the cost of charging an electric vehicle.

While Con Edison also promotes renewable energy by supplying customers with information about the incentives and rebates of solar energy technology and sponsoring renewable energy projects such as the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Project, the energy the company provides still comes primarily from coal and natural gas.


Despite sustainability initiatives, Con Edison has not supported select “green” bills in New York State. For example, when on-bill recovery legislation was going through the Senate, Con Edison tried to block its passage, stating that “accommodating the program would require them to update and recode their billing system to include the loan line item” and that “this might cause homeowners not to pay their bill on time”.


Con Edison has also protested against the New York Solar Jobs Act, which would establish a program to develop over 5,000 megawatts of solar power capacity in NY by 2025 and is estimated to create more than 22,000 new jobs. The company argues that electricity rates would rise if the legislation passed. According to a 2010 CrossBorder Energy analysis, the cost of enforcing the bill would be 39 cents on the average monthly residential utility bill. The bill may not largely impact consumers, but Con Edison would be forced to purchase solar energy under 15-year contracts.


Although Con Edison has taken steps towards helping New Yorker’s “green” their energy sources, it’s evident that there’s a long way to go in providing sustainable energy sources and service to our homes, offices, and schools.


By Jenny Cheng, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Climate and Coalition Building Intern

Please reload

Follow Us
Search By Tags
Please reload