How much energy does NYC waste?
A “megacity” is a metropolitan area with over 10 million people, so, in New York’s case, this includes the over 22 million people in the five boroughs as well as those who reside (and drive) around the city in Long Island, parts of the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Metropolitan New York’s energy usage far exceeds that of Tokyo, the world’s largest megacity with a population of 34 million. This is largely because New York uses more transportation fuel and heating and industrial fuel.
New York also generates more than 33 million tons of waste each year, much of it from construction, while Tokyo produces about 12 million tons. And New York’s total water consumption is higher than any other megacity, 54 percent of which is used in thermoelectric plants to produce electricity.
It is expected that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Many environmentalists believe urban living has the potential to be inherently more sustainable, but the megacities report reveals that this is not necessarily so. When megacities become wealthy, they consume and waste more per capita. Megacities produce almost 12.6 percent of the world’s waste, though they comprise only 6.7 percent of the global population. The average New Yorker uses 24 times more energy than a typical Kolkata resident, and produces 15 times as much solid waste.
But New York City itself has been called the greenest city in the United States and one of the greenest in the world. Because of the city’s density and public transit, per capita energy consumption, water use and solid waste production in the city are less than in the rest of the U.S. New Yorkers consume two to three times less energy than residents of less dense American cities. In fact, energy consumption in New York City decreased by 7.9 percent between 2005 and 2011.
New York City’s buildings account for two-thirds of the energy the city consumes—a much greater share than in other parts of the U.S. where people use more energy driving. In 2012, the Sustainable Engineering Lab at Columbia University produced an interactive map of New York City, estimating the energy consumption of almost every building in the five boroughs. The map, which breaks down energy consumption by how it is used—whether for heating, cooling, hot water or electricity (lighting and plugs)—shows that midtown Manhattan has the most intensive energy use of the five boroughs. And while two-thirds of city buildings are residential, commercial real estate, like much of midtown, uses significantly more energy per square foot. Most of the energy usage in these midtown buildings goes toward electricity and space heating.