The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) said this week it plans to analyze and report on the changing market conditions that prompted Consolidated Edison Co. (Con Ed) to impose a moratorium on new natural gas customers in Westchester County.
The PSC said it would develop recommendations to ensure utilities across the state are able to meet customer needs in a way that is consistent with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aggressive energy conservation goals.
“Specifically, staff will analyze short-term and long-term market conditions, along with the capacity of natural gas infrastructure and alternatives, and their role in aiding the transition to a clean energy economy,” the commission stated.
Con Ed said this month that it could no longer accept applications for new natural gas service in Westchester County as demand is quickly outpacing pipeline-constrained supply. The utility warned that the moratorium would remain in effect until sufficient supply is available to meet the region’s needs.
The report and recommendations are to be submitted to the PSC and State Energy Planning Board by July 1 for review and assessment of policies, programs and regulations to ensure reliable energy is available for customers and economic growth, while also aiding the state’s renewable energy goals. Those steps, the commission added, would aid broader efforts to help lower gas demand.
“The commission will continue to use all available methods — including its rate-making authority — to push utilities to address changing market dynamics in a manner that promotes both the state’s clean energy objectives and economic growth,” PSC said, adding that utilities “must also do their part” to help consumers conserve energy and solicit natural gas supply alternatives.
Con Ed said it “made every effort” to explore alternatives, including solutions to cut gas use and employ compressed or renewable gas. However, the utility said those alternatives aren’t enough to meet demand.
National Grid has also warned of a similar supply squeeze on Long Island if Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s Northeast Supply Enhancement Project is not approved. That project has already had difficulties with state regulators during the application process for a water quality certification, which has slowed it down.
The PSC announcement came after political and business leaders responded to the Con Ed announcement with concerns about economic growth and consumers.
The Cuomo administration, however, has staunchly resisted additional gas supplies, banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing and challenging, or even stopping, major gas pipeline projects designed to meet growing demand there and in the Northeast.
Cuomo is also targeting some of the nation’s most aggressive climate goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. He recently launched plans for a “Green New Deal” aimed at eliminating carbon emissions entirely and furthering the administration’s efforts to battle climate change. Under the proposals, the state would accelerate its targets over the next decade, aiming to cut emissions by 70% by 2030.
PSC said staff members would focus their analysis of market conditions on Westchester County and other areas of the state that may have similar issues. Public hearings are scheduled to begin in February.
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