NYU Flag on a building

“NYU disputes the claims in a recent Reuters article about university power plants.

“In fact, when the data is properly evaluated, NYU’s cogeneration plant is in the top quarter of university plants in the US in terms of GHG emissions per useful energy produced, and is much more efficient than the New York City power grid today, which—unlike NYU—does not generally benefit from the efficiencies associated with cogeneration. 

“In a cogeneration plant, unlike a conventional electricity generating plant, the heat created to make electricity is repurposed, such as to also heat water or run chilled water compressors.

“The publicly reported data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), upon which the story relied, is inconsistent. Some university cogeneration plants are shown including both the electricity produced by their plants as well as their useful thermal output, whereas many others (including NYU) only include their electricity output. 

“This inconsistency made NYU’s cogeneration plant seem about 50% less efficient than it really is.  We are working on correcting this error with the EIA.

“Some notable points about NYU’s cogeneration plant:

  • NYU replaced the previous plant with the current plant a little over a decade ago at a cost of about $150 million in order to specifically and substantially improve efficiency, reduce carbon and pollutant emissions, and reduce costs
  • During the summer months, the NYU’s cogeneration plants uses the heat from making electricity to power compressors for chilled water, reducing the use of less-efficient electricity from the grid and lowering the strain on the grid
  • Using heat from the cogeneration plant has eliminated the need for numerous fossil fuel boilers around campus
  • NYU’s cogeneration plant runs on cleaner-burning natural gas over 99% of the time; virtually the only time it burns fuel oil is at the request of ConEd to switch over in order to avoid a shortage of natural gas to other customers. This reduces particulate emissions that can affect local air quality by over 90%
  • NYU’s cogen plant aids the University’s resiliency, allowing many students and employees to safely shelter in place and research and operations to carry on even when the city’s electric grid is disabled
  • As long as the electrical grid that serves NYC is primarily fossil-fuel based (as it is today), using cogeneration to simultaneously produce electricity and heat makes use of more of the energy in the fuel than producing electricity and heating separately, reducing the emissions that contribute to global climate change. This makes NYU’s cogen plant a critical part of reaching our goal of 50% emissions reductions from 2006 levels by 2025.

“For an overview of how NYU’s cogeneration plant works, see this NY Times article from 2011 or this representation of the plant.

“NYU remains committed to being at the forefront of sustainability efforts among US universities.”


Press Contact

John Beckman
John Beckman
(212) 998-6848