Consolidated Edison Co. (Con Ed) of New York Inc. said it will stop accepting applications for new natural gas service in most of Westchester County, NY, starting in mid-March because demand is outpacing pipeline-constrained supply.

Applications for new service are not to be accepted after March 15, however, the utility signaled that the moratorium would not affect its simultaneous efforts to boost gas service across the New York City (NYC) metropolitan area.

"The demand for natural gas in our service area has been experiencing significant growth primarily due to the construction of new buildings, the opening of new businesses and conversions from oil to cleaner-burning natural gas in existing buildings," Con Ed said last Friday. "But all of this new demand for gas is reaching the limits of the current supplies to our service area."

According to Con Ed, the utility "made every effort to explore alternatives to avoid a moratorium on new natural gas connections. While we are advancing new solutions -- including substantial reductions in usage by existing customers and deploying compressed or renewable natural gas -- we have not identified enough alternatives at this time to meet growing natural gas demand. We will continue to investigate pipeline projects that could meet New York's requirements."

The moratorium will allow the utility to "maintain reliable service to our existing natural gas customers on the coldest days." The utility’s website said the moratorium "will remain in effect until sufficient supply is available to meet new demand. That can be through additional non-pipeline alternatives, or a pipeline project that meets federal and local requirements."

NYC is not affected by the moratorium because it is served by a different pipeline. "We continue to accept new gas customer applications in NYC," Con Ed said. "We will continue to monitor increases in customer demand and our ability to meet that demand with traditional supplies or clean alternatives in our NYC gas service area."

Con Ed proposed a $305 million program to boost gas service in the NYC region last October. The plan included building up to five storage facilities in Westchester County to hold compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas, as well as extending customer incentives for heating equipment and heat pumps.

In December 2017, the utility issued a request for proposals to meet gas demand without having to build a major pipeline. At the time, the utility reported that gas demand within its service area increased 30% since 2011, and that demand was forecast to grow another 20% over the next two decades.

Con Ed's natural gas service area in the NYC area includes parts of the Bronx, Manhattan, the northern half of Queens and Westchester County. It has about 1.1 million residential and commercial gas customers, including 232,000 in Westchester County.