Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was at the Law School earlier this month 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 some of the buildings on Washington Square Park in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 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 in Connecticut.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan speaks at NYU Law.

Donovan, a former fellow at the 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 New York City can rebuild to withstand storms like Hurricane Sandy. He talked about the ways that the federal government had responded to the disaster, including the billions of dollars through HUD and FEMA that were spent in the city and state. In talking about rebuilding stronger after Sandy, he discussed the need for the federal government to align the funding with local rebuilding efforts. Finally, he talked about the potential for microgrids to be used in New York City to help provide power for critical facilities when the electrical grid fails.

The rest of the workshop consisted of expert discussions on how to increase the number of microgrids in urban centers like New York City, and included discussions of existing systems and the legal and financial barriers to new microgrids. Some of the people participating in the panels were: ConEd President Craig Ivey; Richard Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York; John MacWilliams, senior finance advisor to Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz; Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer; and Sergej Mahnovski, director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning.

Posted on August 28, 2013