Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan Speaks at Workshop on Electricity Microgrids

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was at the Law School in August to discuss the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which he chaired. His presentation was part of a workshop organized by the Frank J. Guarini Center on Environmental and Land Use Law on using microgrids to increase the resiliency of the larger electrical grid.

Microgrids are small-scale grids—usually the size of city block or university campus—that have their own generating ability (through renewable power or gas-fired generators) and which can operate when the larger grid goes down. NYU’s microgrid and generation facility provided power to NYU buildings on Washington Square Park after Hurricane Sandy when lower Manhattan was blacked out. The workshop was a part of the increased focus on energy law and policy by the Guarini Center. The energy work is being led by two new center fellows: Distinguished Senior Fellow Paul Francis ’80, former Director of New York State Agency Redesign and Efficiency, and Senior Fellow in Energy Jonathan Schrag, former Deputy Commissioner for Energy and Environment of Connecticut.

Secretary Donovan, a former fellow at NYU Law’s Furman Center on Real Estate and Urban Policy, spoke about the work of the Task Force, which released its final report a week later, and focused on the ways that NYC can rebuild to withstand storms like Hurricane Sandy. He described how the federal government had responded to the disaster, including spending billions of dollars through HUD and FEMA in the city and state. He emphasized need for the federal government to align the funding with local rebuilding efforts, and discussed the potential for using microgrids in NYC to help provide power for critical facilities when the larger grid fails.

Other workshop speakers examined how to increase the number of microgrids in urban centers like NYC, and discussed existing systems and the legal and financial barriers to new microgrids. Speakers included: ConEd President Craig Ivey; Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York; John MacWilliams, Senior Finance Advisor to Department of Energy Secretary Moniz; Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer; Sergej Mahnovski, Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning.

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