The Office of Sustainability supports the City’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.
We work with other City agencies, non-profit partners, school staff and students to raise awareness around climate change and energy management.
Why Energy Matters
Citywide, nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.
There are over 1,500 school buildings in New York City with over 135 million square feet of facility space. As we manage energy use in our buildings, we aim to contribute to our city’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.
“Energy efficiency” means using less energy to provide the same service. Energy efficiency projects include upgrades to lighting, controls, and/or mechanical systems.
- consume less energy
- make equipment more efficient
- help us operate equipment more efficiently
Energy Benchmarking and Building Energy Efficiency Ratings
At NYC Public Schools, we “benchmark” – or measure – our buildings' energy consumption. We use the EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. This tool compares buildings of the same type (here, K-12 public schools) across the nation to create benchmarking scores.
We track and analyze current building energy use and compare it to previous years. We use this data to plan upgrade projects, training, and other improvements.
Local Law 33/95 requires all City-owned buildings over 10,000 square feet to post an Energy Efficiency Rating. The rating is a letter grade A-F, and score 1–100, based on benchmarked data from the previous calendar year.
Demand Response Programs
With Demand Response (DR) Programs, NYC Public Schools partner with the City on its resilience efforts. We have the largest participation in the programs due to the size of our agency.
Two distinct DR programs run at different times of the year. In summer, it is for the electric grid. In winter, it is for natural gas supply. Extreme temperatures, like extreme heat and extreme cold, put energy infrastructure at risk. This could result in power outages or no heat.
Utility companies will determine if a heat or cold emergency might threaten their ability to provide heating or cooling. Then, they call a Demand Response event for a set period of time.
The Two Types of DR Programs:
- Electricity: over 450 school buildings take part in DR to reduce the risk of power outages during extreme heat (like a hot summer day). We do this by turning off lighting in unoccupied spaces or reducing elevator service and equipment use where possible.
- Natural Gas: over 70 school buildings participate to protect National Grid’s gas supply during extreme cold. We do this to help ensure New Yorkers have a reliable heat source.
Since these programs conserve energy, the City protects residents and saves money on utility bills. As a result, NYC Public Schools receives a share of revenue from performance in Demand Response events.
We reinvest funding in buildings. We fund projects to make them more efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the 2022-23 school year, we funded $4.7 million in energy improvement projects in 66 schools.
We also fund the Annual Sustainability Project Grant Program. In the 2022-23 school year, we awarded $611,513 to 146 schools across all boroughs.
Demand Response is a great opportunity for NYC Public Schools to gain incentives while taking climate action.
Clean Energy Program
New York City set a goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar capacity on City-owned buildings. School buildings are ideal candidates for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels where roof conditions allow.
- NYC Solar Schools Program: Our program is the largest of its kind in the nation. We've completed 68 solar PV installations on school rooftops. This makes up nearly 80% of the City’s current progress towards its clean energy goal! Over 150 more school buildings are in the planning process for solar PV installations.
Education and Outreach
Every person in a NYC Public School building can help reduce energy use through simple actions, such as shutting off unused lights.
We promote energy awareness and management. We train and support Custodian Engineers, school staff, Sustainability Coordinators, and students.
We connect this operations work to our schools through education. We partner with other City agencies and non-profits such as Solar One to work with schools by:
- Bringing clean energy topics into school curriculum
- Conducting professional development workshops for teachers and custodial engineers
Tips for Energy Management
- Reduce wasted energy:
- Use power strips to plug in electronics
- Turn off unnecessary overhead lighting
- Unplug appliances when not in use
- Turn off computers and smart boards at the end of the day
- Close windows when you have A/C or heat on
- On hot summer days, close blinds and shades to reduce excess heat
- Report or fix water leaks
- Adjust your thermostat settings: a 1°F change on a thermostat can save (or increase) energy use by as much as 10%
- Attend professional development workshops to learn about energy efficiency and clean energy
- Invite students into energy management in your school:
- Conduct a classroom energy audit
- Assign students to be in charge of turning off lights
- Have student monitors do weekly reminders to power down computers and smart boards
- Schedule a class visit with your school’s Custodian Engineer to talk about energy use