While Northeast policymakers and citizens debate whether to expand natural gas infrastructure, Con Edison of New York (ConEd) is proposing a "clean energy future" built on natural gas and renewable resources.
In a filing to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), ConEd proposed a series of "smart solutions" for its gas utility customers that include doubling conservation funding, establishing a gas load reduction program and offering renewable alternatives to gas heating longer term.
Ultimately, ConEd cited the need for additional pipeline capacity or an alternative way to balance supply/demand.
"All pipeline capacity coming into the company's service territory is contracted, and there are no projects underway that would provide additional capacity to serve the company's customers," a spokesperson said.
New York has staunchly resisted natural gas expansions under Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with regulators consistently denying major infrastructure projects to bring more Appalachian shale gas into the state. Regulators also have touted New York’s role as a clean energy leader. Under Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision, renewable contributions would increase to 50% by 2030.
Business leaders have voiced concerns about the state’s policies, especially as energy prices remain high compared to many other parts of the country. To date, construction of gas pipelines "is not keeping pace with growing demand," the utility said. ConEd wants to more efficiently manage gas use in New York City and Westchester County.
The utility is seeking to step up gas conservation programs already in place to displace the need for more pipeline capacity, but "the large shortfall in capacity makes it difficult to meet growing customer needs solely through conservation."
The proposed programs are designed to help Con Ed "avoid having to institute moratoriums on the interconnection of new customers to its natural gas system,” it said.
"Thousands of customers are transitioning to natural gas because community clean heat programs have required customers to switch from residual heating oil to cleaner heating fuels like gas," according to ConEd. "The flexibility, environmental performance and high reliability of natural gas have also made the fuel attractive to many customers replacing existing heating systems or constructing new buildings."
Con Ed set gas consumption records in recent winters by converting about 6,500 large buildings in New York City to gas from oil since 2011, including 1,249 in 2014.
"The conversions have dramatically reduced emissions,” including reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter, nickel and greenhouse gases. Particulate matter alone had been reduced by more than 500 tons on an annualized basis.