We’re switching things up a bit for the next few weeks. Instead of continuing our sector-by-sector decarbonization tour, we’re taking you to the front lines of the energy transition – to communities where the big switch to a zero carbon future is already underway.

We’re starting with New York City, where there’s a project underway that’s tackling decarbonization and equity at the same time. Residents in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments have long lived with dangerous heating and cooling conditions — especially in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Ida. Now, NYCHA housing also has to decarbonize – and fast – in order to meet the city’s climate commitments. 

So New York City and state government agencies launched the Clean Heat for All competition. The challenge? Get the heat pump industry to design a technology that didn’t exist yet: heat pumps that fit in an apartment window. The winning design would replace aging boilers, allow residents to control the temperature in their own units and could be a game changer for building decarbonization across the board. 

The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Alexandria Herr and Daniel Woldorff. Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Natalie Volk, Kirsten Smith and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.