New York City aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. To attain this ambitious goal, the City needs efficient, high-volume approaches to processing the eight million pounds of food waste generated daily by residents as well as carbon-neutral energy options to heat and cool buildings. The FUSE Executive Fellow will support the strategic procurement of biogas and geothermal wastewater systems to help make New York City a global leader in clean energy technology while also reducing pollution and improving the quality of life for community members.

Fellowship Dates: April 22, 2024 – April 21, 2025

Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.

ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP

FUSE is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.

When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.

Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.

PROJECT CONTEXT

New York City has ambitious goals for emissions reduction, aiming to divert all waste from landfills by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is New York’s water and wastewater utility and its work is critical to achieving these goals. DEP is exploring several opportunities to invest in renewable energy and resource recovery projects across the agency’s water and wastewater operations.

First, DEP is actively pursuing renewable energy from the co-digestion of wastewater and food waste. One of NYC’s primary sources of GHG emissions is the eight million pounds of residential food waste generated daily, which, if landfilled, releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Diverting this massive volume from landfills will require multiple approaches, including composting and anaerobic digestion of food waste.

Co-digestion of wastewater and food waste presents an opportunity to transform the City’s inputs into a renewable energy system. After a successful demonstration project at DEP’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility in Brooklyn, the City has committed to expanding this approach by investing in projects that enable the beneficial use of biogas to displace fossil-derived energy. The City intends to utilize current Federal and State funding opportunities to offset the cost of these investments, putting increased time pressure on their procurement, design, and construction.

Additionally, DEP is exploring the feasibility of capturing and using thermal energy from its wastewater collection system. The heating and cooling of buildings is responsible for two-thirds of the City’s GHG emissions, but their wastewater represents untapped energy in the form of hot water from showers, washing machines, and sinks. Thermal energy systems would seek to capture and redeploy much of this energy locally, assisting with broader decarbonization efforts.

New York City will partner with FUSE to inform DEP’s targeted investments in innovative renewable energy projects. The FUSE Executive Fellow will contribute to developing the business case for biogas and thermal energy investments. The Executive Fellow will also collaborate with agency finance and procurement staff to explore public-private partnership models and leverage State and Federal funding to ensure the best value for the City. As a result of this work, New York City will be better equipped to achieve its environmental impact goals.

PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.

Starting in April 2024, the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to establish deep relationships with crucial stakeholders including local government leaders, environmental advocates, operators and users of biogas and thermal energy infrastructure, environmental justice groups, and members of the public. The Executive Fellow will also conduct an extensive review of best practices being utilized by other major cities in areas such as innovative contracting approaches for biogas and thermal energy investments by public wastewater.

Next, the Executive Fellow will analyze the business case for projects the beneficially use of biogas and thermal energy, such as renewable natural gas-to-grid systems. The Executive Fellow will be able to leverage the responses to DEP’s recent Requests for Expressions of Interest related to co-digestion and beneficial use of biogas and biosolids. This work will result in a cost-benefit analysis that identifies the City’s potential operating maintenance costs and potential revenues.

The Executive Fellow will also compare contracting and partnership mechanisms to determine which structure may be best suited to achieve the City’s climate change goals. This will involve developing a business model and procurement plan that conforms to City requirements. The model will include an evaluation of which components of the renewable natural gas value chain may be done in-house by DEP and/or in partnership with the private sector.

The plan for thermal energy recovery will be exploratory, as DEP is still in the early stages of exploring implementation. The Executive Fellow will conduct stakeholder engagement and consider how a new thermal energy system might be tested and expanded, as well as the ways in which DEP might pursue strategic public-private partnerships in this space.

By April 2025, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:

  • Conduct a Stakeholder Listening Tour – Develop relationships with stakeholders in City government, renewable energy firms, environmental justice groups, and the community. Conduct a literature review of biogas and wastewater energy recovery in other major cities.
  • Analyze the Business Case – Identify the costs, revenues, tradeoffs, and benefits of co-digestion, biogas, and thermal energy recovery from wastewater. Evaluate responses from external stakeholders and private companies to identify the most strategic options for the City.
  • Design Implementation Plans – Develop business plans for co-digestion, gas-to-grid, and thermal energy recovery systems, including analysis of the appropriate procurement mechanism. Contribute to DEP’s Federal and State funding applications as relevant to advance these projects.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Executive Sponsor – Rohit Aggarwala, Chief Climate Officer and Commissioner; Department of Environmental Protection
  • Project Supervisor – Jane Gajwani, Director, Office of Energy and Resource Recovery Programs; Department of Environmental Protection

QUALIFICATIONS

In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in energy or infrastructure finance, renewable energy business development, or public-private partnerships is strongly preferred for this project.

  • Familiarity with renewable energy markets (ideally biofuels).
  • Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
  • Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
  • Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
  • Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies, and other processes.
  • Communicates effectively verbally and in writing and excels in active listening and conversing.
  • Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies to support more effective decision-making.
  • Establishes and maintains strong relationships with diverse stakeholders, both inside and outside of government.
  • Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
  • Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.

FUSE is an equal opportunity employer with diversity, equity, and inclusion core values. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.