Catalyzing Market Transformation: Ufei ChanPublished: Oct 19, 2017 Policy | Blog Post
IMT is laser-focused on unleashing the potential of energy-efficient buildings to improve bottom lines and property value, drive economic growth, and reduce harmful pollution to create healthier, resilient cities. Collaborating with building owners, tenants, governments, and other city and corporate stakeholders, as well as NGOs and strategic partners, IMT’s expert staff strive to catalyze collective and permanent market change. So, who is IMT? Get to know our subject matter experts in this blog series.
Ufei Chan supported the City of New York’s Mayor’s Office of Sustainability as Energy Data Policy Advisor—one of many IMT employees deployed to help implement building energy efficiency across the country. With her project complete, she sat down to share why collaboration with community stakeholders across the city was key to successful market transformation.
As an IMT employee stationed in the field, how did you describe your work?
Through IMT, as an advisor to New York City in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, my work focused on driving building efficiency polices within the local jurisdiction. I joined the city government when it was still in the early years of implementing its landmark Greener, Greater Buildings Plan and had just enough data points to draw initial connections. One of the first things I learned was the shear impact buildings have in the city. They account for over 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions citywide and are a pivotal sector to control if we are to meet the ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 (“80 x 50”).
Most recently, I worked on a project to analyze six years of energy and water performance data collected through the Greener, Greater Building Plan. The findings of this newly released report, New York City’s Energy and Water Use 2014 & 2015, will help policymakers understand the city’s progress toward 80 x 50.
How do you apply your previous experience to your current projects?
My projects in building efficiency are diverse and require a breadth of skills to intelligently link policy priorities with market goals. Luckily, I’ve had two bodies of experience that support my work. Before I began my second career in building efficiency, I worked in finance. There, I learned to manage projects well and oversaw a multimillion dollar budget. I credit that experience with teaching me how to plan and execute projects and manage varied groups of stakeholders.
The second body of experience I collected was in business school while majoring in environmental sustainability. I completed a capstone project on utility-scale renewables and an internship in a green energy startup. It was there that I gained a deep interest in the energy sector when I recognized the many market barriers that were preventing wide adoption of new, exciting technologies. IMT’s work and the implementation of energy efficiency policies and programs in cities are critical to breaking down these barriers.
What does market transformation mean to you, and how does your current work move us toward that goal?
From my perspective in in the Mayor’s Office, I view my office’s role in market transformation as the strategic process of using policy, program, and financial levers to create lasting change in market behavior.
My current work involves heavy data analysis to enable successful policy implementation. When the City moves toward policies and activities that will transform the market, we do this methodically by using data to support our decisions. For example, when we expanded the benchmarking law to cover mid-size buildings, we collected and analyzed data on the number and type of buildings that would be included, as well as market research to better understand their owners and managers. This body of data and research allows us to work with building owners to ensure they get their best chance to understand their energy and water use data and submit accurate reports to the City that can lead to new energy-saving measures in their buildings.
What most excites you about working with cities and local communities?
Cities and local communities have the opportunity to unlock potential in the local market and enable residents to lead more sustainable lives for generations to come. Aside from working in the New York City government, I volunteer in my town's citizen action group on renewables, energy efficiency, and sustainability. This experience has showed me time and again how policies, programs, and the right balance of intervention can change the way local residents adopt energy efficiency, waste reduction, clean transportation, and renewable energy.
Tell us about a time you recognized the impact of building energy efficiency.
When producing New York City’s Energy and Water Use Report, I collaborated with nonprofits and academic partners to analyze a great deal of building data. One particular trend analysis graph stood out because it displayed the trend of annually collected data over a period of six years, since the first moment we began collecting. The trend showed an over 10 percent reduction in energy use in buildings, which translates to an almost 14 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the last six years. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees when you're working on a particular program, but this graphic allowed me to see the combined impact of all the programs in NYC in driving down greenhouse gas emissions. To see this graphic and more, take a look at the full reports from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.