Update from NYC – Commissioner’s Forum on Energy Storage at the New York City Department of Buildings

Yesterday, Thomas Fariello, Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings, hosted a forum on energy storage at DOB headquarters in NYC. Attendees included numerous representatives from DOB, senior personnel from the Mayor’s office, the Fire Department of New York, the New York Department of Environmental Protection, NYC Department of City Planning and several other city agencies. In addition to NYC representatives, Con Edison, the US DoE, NFPA, Underwriters Laboratories, NYSERDA, NYPA, NY-BEST and representatives from five energy storage firms presented and/or participated in the half-day meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to share information on energy storage technologies and systems with an eye to siting numerous (think 100’s) systems in NYC buildings under Con Edison and NYSERDA’s new Demand Management Program—incentives that will provide $2100/kW for battery storage and $2600/kW for thermal storage—by the program end date of June 1, 2016.

Currently, New York City building code makes reference only to lead acid batteries. A new version of the fire code that will take effect at the end of this month on March 31 contains references to both lead acid and lithium ion technologies. Despite those references, the “use case” for battery systems as required for compliance with the incentive program is not in the code—the only referenced “use cases” are backup, emergency power and standby power.

This leads to a strong need for development and implementation for streamlined/routine review for storage projects. This need has been known for some time—and as a result, numerous meetings and discussions among the key parties have been on going for quite some time as well. The meeting yesterday was an important step in defining the process for siting approval for storage and I’m happy to say that I believe it went quite well.

Understandably, numerous technologies and vendors could not be included in yesterday’s meeting due to time and logistical constraints—the room was packed and a warm, sunny first day of Spring in NYC led to the room being quite warm, as well. In discussions with DOB staff, they have made it abundantly clear that all technologies and projects that come forward for siting approvals will be treated equally—the five that were in the room served to illustrate the variety and various approaches currently in the market, but were not by any means portrayed as preferred solutions.

The overall format of the day consisted of about 2 hours of presentations followed by a short break that led into free-form comments and discussion from all participants. While much was asked and answered in this session, I think all in attendance would agree that much more remains to be done.

On that front, I have been advised that DOB plans to provide guidance on the siting approval process in the coming few weeks. Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available, and feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns.

I’d like to offer special thanks to Gina Bocra, Chief Sustainability Officer at DOB, and Alan Price, Director of the Office of Technical Certification and Research for their leadership and tireless efforts in pulling the forum together. They worked hard to make the event happen and will, I’m sure, continue to work hard to help make the siting of energy storage happen as well.

John Cerveny