The New York State Department of Public Service (DPS) has ordered National Grid to connect natural gas service for more than 1,100 customers, warning the utility that it faces millions of dollars in penalties for denying service.
National Grid has imposed a moratorium on new gas service in New York City, indicating last month that it’s unable to process 2,600 applications representing 20,000 commercial, residential and multi-family units without additional infrastructure to bring more gas supplies into the region. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also wrote in a letter to state regulators in August that his administration had received reports of customers unable to resume service after it was disconnected to finish renovations.
National Grid said shortly after Cuomo’s office announced the order on Friday that it would “immediately begin connecting” applicants identified in the order that had inactive accounts, applied for gas service and were denied during the connection restrictions policy that went into effect. The impacted customers are in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. National Grid New York President John Bruckner on Monday said the company is aiming to reconnect a majority of the customers by mid-November.
However, a spokesperson said the company still stands by its analysis, saying “there are very real gas supply constraints in the Northeast.” Long-term “guaranteed supplies” are still necessary to connect customers and “to maintain the safety and reliability of the gas system for all customers,” the company said Friday.
The DPS order claims there are numerous options available to National Grid to provide reliable service, including implementing aggressive demand response and energy efficiency programs, as well as alternative supply options. If utilized, the DPS said other customers not included in the order could also receive service, but Bruckner stressed Monday that the moratorium must remain in effect for customers seeking new or expanded service.
“To aid in this effort, we’re expanding our existing demand response and energy efficiency programs to reduce overall energy use, which will help create additional capacity to serve these customers,” Bruckner said. “But let’s remember, while securing contingency supply solutions will help our customers in the short-term, we still need additional, long-term and firm supplies of natural gas.”
For now, the company will also deploy several short-term solutions to address supply shortfalls, such as portable compressed natural gas stations and adding a higher than usual percentage of gas supply from spot commodity markets.
National Grid has warned for most of the year that without additional infrastructure to serve the city, it won’t be able to meet increasing demand. Management has said the company won’t risk the operational integrity of its system and compromise natural gas use for its existing 1.8 million customers in the city. The situation has rankled developers, residents and politicians in the region.
New York has twice denied key permits for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC’s Northeast Supply Enhancement project. Northeast Supply is fully subscribed by National Grid subsidiaries serving customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The state has also denied other projects in recent years, such as the Constitution Pipeline, which would bring more supplies into the city.
Making matters worse, Consolidated Edison Co. (Con Ed), which shares infrastructure with National Grid serving the city, has also imposed a moratorium on new gas service in suburbs to the north of the city in Westchester County. Con Ed stopped taking applications for new service and has warned of additional disruptions without Northeast Supply.
The DPS launched a review of the gas constraints earlier this year. Cuomo said last week the investigation has been expanded to review National Grid’s reliability planning protocols.