UNHQ to be powered by renewable energy

Wed, 16/05/12

UNHQ is marking the International Year of Sustainability Energy for All in style.  As of May 2012, the vast bulk of electricity used at UNHQ in New York will be powered by renewable energy.

Things have come together nicely over the last two of years.  First, the US$1.9 billion renovation of the Secretariat building is on track to reduce energy consumption by 50% and carbon emissions by 45%.  Second, the building’s electricity contract came up for renewal at a good time in the market cycle. And thirdly, the Secretariat in New York now has a full-time advisor on sustainability – Julie MacKenzie.

The improvements in energy efficiency and the savings in consumption are in themselves a significant step towards sustainability. Now, there is also green energy in a green building.  This has been achieved by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), a tradable certificate issued when electricity is generated and delivered to the grid from a qualifying renewable energy source. From now on, carbon emissions from electricity use on the main campus will be zero.

The vote for renewables cost only 1% more than conventional or brown energy.  Had it been decided to purchase energy from non-renewable sources and to buy carbon credits to offset the related emissions, the cost would have been several times more.

Julie MacKenzie, the Secretariat’s Senior Advisor on Sustainability was over the moon about the outcome, its compatibility with the resource-efficient design of the renovated Secretariat building, and its support for the Secretary-General’s International Year of Sustainable Energy for All:

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are an investment in renewable energy. Purchasing RECs contributes to expanding the market supply of sustainable energy. This is an excellent instance of the UN practicing what it preaches and leading by example.