Engage: Who’s footing the bill?

The “New York Energy Policy” maps out the city’s plan to expand into the outer borough areas and rezone them to make them more appealing for commercial and residential development. While this will probably be a profitable endeavor for the growing businesses in that area and the city as a whole, there is an issue regarding expanding the existing power grid to supply the necessary energy. If we are already building new transformers and substations the logical plan would be to use exiting technology to waterproof the systems. In the article “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System,” senior vice president of electrical operations, John Miksad, claimed that retrofitting the 10 substations shut down by Hurricane Sandy would cost $800 million dollars. Con Edison is hesitant to waterproof their systems because the consumer would have to cover the cost. Do you think that the city should, at least, cover the cost of waterproofing new critical energy distribution stations using the city’s budget or do you believe that the NYC residents and businesses should come together and pay for the protection?


NYC’s Electrical System

In “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System”, it was brought up that the electrical infrastructure of NYC has vulnerabilities. Four out of the five previous storms have damaged the vulnerable systems. Certain solutions were proposed, such as making such utilities submersible. However, these solutions may not be enough to mitigate damage from a future natural disaster. Since the electricity is one of the city’s most important infrastructures, without it, many others that depend on it will fail as well. Upgrading the system will also create larger bills for customers. Do you think that upgrading the city’s electrical grid is worth the investment? Are you willing as a customer to pay much more on your monthly bill so that the utilities are more likely to survive future natural disasters? Should the city have a plan in the event of natural disasters in attempt to minimize damage? If so, why would it be worthwhile to implement such a plan that may or may not work? If not, how should the city protect itself against future catastrophes?


The Interdependencies and Dependencies among NYC’s Infrastructure

The reading “Infrastructure Impacts and Adaptation Challenges” reinforces New York City’s increased vulnerability because of its interdependencies and dependencies among infrastructures, making it further susceptible to extreme weather events mentioned in “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System.” Looking at the flip side of the coin, do you think New York City can use the interdependencies among its infrastructures and turn it into an advantage in its infrastructure adaptation to climate change? If so, how?  What do you think is lacking in New York City’s current plan for infrastructure adaptation to climate change? Do you think New York City is prepared to face another storm such as Sandy or will its infrastructure crumble once again because of the interdependencies and dependencies among them?


What would you do?

The paper titled “Infrastructure impacts and adaptation challenges” details case studies in three different cities and how these cities are adapting to the changing climate or advancing infrastructure in other ways. Pretend for a few minutes that you are the one in charge of deciding a few courses of action to implement in New York City. Realistically you would not have an endless budget, so which initiatives in specific would you implement if you could, and which do you believe are less pressing than the others? Additionally, which of the three cities models do you believe would be the best for New York to follow?

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Week 6: Energy in the City, Concepts of Time and Place

Reference Challenge:  “Energy in Context.” What is a lot of energy, what is a little, and how do watts, joules, and calories relate to each other?  Present a useful reference graphic to help us understand energy metrics.

Click to show required readings
Zimmerman, Rae, and Craig Faris. “Infrastructure impacts and adaptation challenges.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1196.1 (2010): 63-86.

New York City Energy Policy: An Electricity Resource Roadmap Prepared by the New York City Energy Policy Task Force January 2004 www.nyc.gov/html/om/pdf/energy_task_force.pdf

Marritz, Ilya. “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System”, WNYC News, Friday, January 11, 2013 http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2013/jan/11/four-storms-quick-succession-expose-flaws-new-york-citys-electrical-system/


Click to show optional readings
Abt, Clark C. “The Future of Energy from the Perspective of the Social Sciences.” What the Future Holds: Insights from Social Science. Ed. Richard N. Cooper and Richard Layard. MIT Press, 2003. e-reserves


Lynch, Kevin. “Ch. 1: Cities Performing,” in What Time is this Place?. MIT Press, 1976. 2-28. e-reserves.

Lynch, Kevin. “Ch. 4: The Future Preserved,” in What Time is this Place?. MIT Press, 1976. 90-116. e-reserves.

Lynch, Kevin. “Ch. 9: Environmental Change and Social Change,” in What Time is this Place?. MIT Press, 1976. 215-222.  e-reserves.

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