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Hearing of the Committee on Environmental Protection
The Council of the City of New York

February 17, 2011


Testimony of Sergej Mahnovski, Ph.D
Senior Advisor to the Commissioner
New York City Department of Environmental Protection


New York City's Hydropower Capacity: Present and Future Opportunities


Good afternoon Chairman Gennaro and Members. I am Sergej Mahnovski, Senior Advisor to Commissioner Holloway and Director of the new Energy Team, at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). With me this afternoon is Anthony Fiore, Chief of Staff to our Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Kathryn Garcia. Anthony has worked extensively on energy projects and the issues connected with our proposal for new hydroelectric facilities, which I will talk about in a minute.

On behalf of Commissioner Holloway, thank you for the opportunity to speak about DEP's hydropower capacity. On November 22, 2010, DEP released a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) for the development and financing of four hydroelectric facilities on the City's upstate reservoirs. Before going into more detail on the current and proposed hydropower facilities, I would like to put this RFEI into context by describing the energy initiatives and responsibility Mayor Bloomberg has tasked DEP with exploring and developing. As you know, on November 22nd Deputy Mayor Goldsmith announced that the City's energy policy and planning functions, formerly housed at the City's Economic Development Corporation now resides at DEP. As one of the largest energy consumers in the City, DEP has a strong interest in keeping energy clean, reliable, and affordable, and we are well-situated to take a leadership role in Mayor Bloomberg's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from City agencies by 30 percent by 2017.

DEP will work with key energy regulators including the Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other key energy-related entities such as the New York Independent System Operator and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on energy issues affecting city residents and ratepayers. DEP will also work with the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to develop and implement the City's long-term energy strategy. This strategy includes demand reduction, clean energy generation, and other initiatives. By combining the policy-making functions with DEP's capital investment planning experience, large asset base, and technical expertise in water, wastewater, and energy systems, the City will be in a better position to meet the energy needs and goals of the future.

From the wastewater treatment plants throughout the five boroughs to the reservoirs upstate, DEP has a unique asset mix that, in partnership with local utilities and the private sector, can be harnessed to generate clean energy. DEP expects to invest more than $200 million over the next four years in projects that include clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies for its facilities in support of its core utility function. This includes solar energy at our Port Richmond facility, a wind turbine at Oakwood Beach, harnessing energy at our landfills, and utilizing digester gas from our wastewater treatment facilities. DEP has also requested in a separate RFEI that proposers look at the possibility of generating power and steam at the Wards Island Wastewater Treatment Plant by using the gases produced in the sewage treatment process.  These public-private initiatives could generate up to 45 megawatts of clean energy in the City and upstate, improving the reliability of the City's energy grid and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Last week Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Holloway launched Strategy 2011–2014, 100 specific commitments to fulfill DEP's mission to provide clean waters, fresh air, and with an aggressive energy policy, a bright future for New Yorkers. You can read more about our energy strategy, and all 100 initiatives at www.nyc.gov/dep.

A core energy strategy for DEP is to use our unique assets – like our upstate reservoirs – to generate clean, renewable energy. Currently, our upstate water supply system hosts five operating hydropower facilities, including two that DEP owns, where the energy inherent in the flow of water from a higher elevation to a lower elevation is used to move turbines that generate electricity cleanly, without burning any fuel. There are four additional locations in our water supply system that are the subject of a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) that brings us here today.

The City currently holds a preliminary permit issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to evaluate the development of hydroelectric facilities at three dams in the Delaware watershed (Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink) and one in the Catskill watershed (Schoharie). Water from the reservoirs is released for conservation purposes and to comply with downstream flow targets in the main stem of the Delaware River, as prescribed under a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree. This water, along with water that would otherwise spill, is available for hydroelectric energy production. Preliminary estimates indicate the four facilities could produce a combined capacity of 15 megawatts of renewable energy, which is equivalent to offsetting 16,800 metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) each year or removing approximately 3,200 cars from the road.

This project is an important part of DEP's commitment to PlaNYC's goal of a reduction of 30% in GHG emissions from municipal sources by 2017, and its overall goal of a 30% reduction in GHG for all of New York City by 2030. Electricity generation from this project may offset purchased energy directly and reduce demand from the electric grid. We are currently investigating the economics of developing these projects, which could generate revenues from the sale of electricity, and potentially qualify for other sources of revenue within the State's Renewable Portfolio Standard. By having the City develop these hydroelectric facilities, DEP can continue to perform its job of protecting and providing the highest quality drinking water and utilize its expertise and experience in operating existing hydroelectric facilities.

The Bloomberg Administration has recognized that addressing the energy challenges facing New York City involve both conservation and increasing sources of renewable energy, among other tools. Increasing the power provided from renewable hydroelectric sources is a very appealing proposition, if it can be done without jeopardizing the operations of our water supply system.  DEP looks forward to reviewing the responses to the RFEI on hydroelectric power.

Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony. Anthony and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

More Information

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