UB RENEW’s partnership with city of Buffalo helping to advance environmental, energy projects

City Skyline

By CORY NEALON republished from UBNow

Published August 15, 2018

“One of the goals of the innovative partnership between the city of Buffalo and the RENEW institute — wherein RENEW Fellows are embedded within the city to help implement the city's energy plan and to build connections between university faculty and the city of Buffalo — was to provide experience to the fellows to conduct impactful work.”
Amit Goyal, director
UB RENEW

Installing solar panels at the Cazenovia Park ice rink. Making streetlights more energy efficient on Genesee and Niagara streets. Curbing pollution in Scajaquada Creek.

All are examples of how UB’s Institute for Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water (RENEW) is working with the city of Buffalo to help create a smarter, cleaner and more resilient community.

The projects are just a few of the growing portfolio of initiatives being co-led by RENEW Fellows, a small group of engineers, urban planners and scientists, in conjunction with city officials. The fellows dedicate 80 percent of their time to working in City Hall and out in the field; the remaining 20 percent is spent at UB.

“One of the goals of the innovative partnership between the city of Buffalo and the RENEW institute — wherein RENEW Fellows are embedded within the city to help implement the city's energy plan and to build connections between university faculty and the city of Buffalo — was to provide experience to the fellows to conduct impactful work,” says Amit Goyal, director of RENEW. 

He points to Bianca Shaw, a Buffalo native, who joined RENEW in 2016 to help the city implement its Energy Master Plan, created with support from the New York Power Authority.

Shaw managed several projects, including the solar installation and energy-efficient lighting efforts mentioned above. Also, in support of RENEW’s focus on water-related research, she joined efforts to help ensure water quality and affordability for Buffalo residents.

Shaw recently accepted a new position as project manager with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA). She will oversee the agency’s Community Energy Engagement Program across the state.

“Bianca served in a unique management role in Buffalo’s water-energy nexus efforts,” says Oluwole “OJ” McFoy, general manager of the Buffalo Sewer Authority and chairman of the Buffalo Water Board. “As part of her government fellow experience, she coordinated a multidepartment effort examining the intersection of household energy use, water consumption, and associated public health and affordability concerns for our city’s most vulnerable.

“We are excited that she is carrying the tools and skills that have been maximized through our UB RENEW partnership to her next career challenge at NYSERDA, and we look forward to her continued efforts here in Buffalo,” McFoy says.

Goyal points out that Shaw’s new job is exactly the type of outcome RENEW had in mind when it established the RENEW Fellow program.

“A major goal of the RENEW Fellow program is to get these researchers interested in working for governmental organizations, such as NYSERDA, to make positive societal impact,” he says.

Julie Barrett O’Neill, who worked with the RENEW Fellows via her roles at the Buffalo Sewer Authority and city of Buffalo, notes the partnership “leverages the university’s investment in the institute, the city’s commitment to energy and water conservation, and the New York Power Authority’s Five Cities Energy program to increase collaboration and impact, while creating a unique professional experience for emerging green professionals.”

Other examples of RENEW Fellows’ efforts include Kevin Meindl, who is managing green infrastructure projects with the Buffalo Sewer Authority; Edward Righter, who is managing clean energy projects with the city of Buffalo; and Yves Mulowayi, who is working to make the Buffalo Sewer Authority more energy-efficient.

RENEW is an interdisciplinary research institute focusing on complex energy and environmental issues, as well as the social and economic ramifications. It helps develop and coordinate innovative research, education and outreach programs.

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Sustainable Development Goals:

6.    Clean water & sanitation: Managing water and sanitation in a sustainable way to ensure its availability to all

11.   Sustainable cities & communities: Developing safe, resilient and sustainable places to live

17.   Partnerships for the goals: Revitalizing global partnerships for a sustainable future and strengthen the implementation of these goals