Recharge NY and Hydropower in Washington Heights

Earth Month 2022 Series

In April of 2021, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger announced Plan 2030, Columbia’s aggressive ten-year strategic sustainability plan, “building on the goals achieved in its first sustainability plan.”

One year later, on April 1, 2022, CUIMC took a big step toward Plan 2030 when a Recharge New York Hydropower Grant kicked in. The Recharge New York Hydropower Grant awarded to CUIMC resulted from a lengthy and comprehensive application process, led by CUIMC’s Director of Energy Management and Sustainability, Indrajeet Viswanathan.

Flipping the switch from “brown power,” or electricity generated by fossil fuels, to “green power,” electricity generated by renewable sources, is just the beginning, according to Viswanathan. “We’re going to include more renewable power. Under Plan 2030, we are investigating ways to achieve 100% renewable power.”

Since its inception in 2012, Recharge New York, administrated by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), has awarded over 700 of these grants to businesses and non-profits throughout the state. While this is a new and significant step for CUIMC, renewable power isn’t new to Columbia. Columbia's Morningside campus began to purchase hydropower from NYPA in 2014 and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has been using off-site solar facilities since 2018, all in alignment with Plan 2030. The Plan goes on to outline short-term (0-3 years), mid-term (4-10 years), and long-term options that will include even more renewable energy sources including offshore wind and solar. 

While the real benefits are environmental and long-term, there is a fiscal component as well. There is no extra cost to the Medical Center for switching to NYPA Hydropower and conservative estimates suggest that CUIMC energy savings through this grant will be at least $200,000/year. That’s at least $1.4 million saved in energy costs over the seven-year life of the grant. The grant awarded to CUIMC allots a total of 1,888kW/year, or 12,861,597kWh to the William Black and Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons buildings, accounting for approximately 37% of the total annual electric use between the two buildings.

What does that mean for CUIMC?  According to the EPA’s website, using 12,861,597kWh is equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gases from 1,999 passenger cars driven for a year. Or it’s like eliminating annual CO2 emissions from normal electrical use for 701 homes. And that’s just 37% of two of CUIMC’s buildings. The impact of Plan 2030 moving forward will be exponential in many ways. Asked if we will be renewing our renewable energy grant in seven years, Viswanathan says, “Absolutely, we will.”


Read Part 1: CUIMC Facilities Management Celebrates Earth Month 2022

Read Part 3: Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) at CUIMC

Read Part 4: CUIMC is Taking Action