- Meeting New York's aggressive clean energy goals will require the addition of new renewable resources, spending billions on efficiency and electrification, and ultimately shifting away from natural gas, the head of Consolidated Edison (ConEd) said on Tuesday.
- The utility serves New York City, where summertime power demand soars as air conditioning loads crank up. The addition of new heating and electric vehicle charging loads, however, will eventually shift ConEd toward winter peaks, President and CEO Timothy Cawley said in a virtual discussion hosted by OurEnergyPolicy.
- Grid modernization and the change in peak demand are being led by advances in system planning and forecasting, said Cawley. "We're getting much more granular ... to include things like energy efficiency, demand response, electric vehicle charging, and heating electrification, going out five to 10 years," he said. "The grid will change significantly because of that forecasting."
New York state has one of the most aggressive clean energy goals in the nation, aiming to reach 70% renewable power by 2030. Meeting that target, said Cawley, will require significant changes to how buildings are powered and vehicles are fueled in New York City.
"We think we are uniquely positioned to help lead the transition to this clean energy future," Cawley said.
After the 2030 renewable energy target, New York State's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates cutting greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050. Currently, about 25% of New York's generation is renewable, and the bulk of that is from hydroelectric facilities. Wind and solar, relative to the state's goals, remain nascent, said Cawley.
By 2040, the law requires's New York's electric sector to be emissions-free.
"We've moved the needle a little bit in New York state, on solar and wind, but we have much more to do," said Cawley. Reaching 70% renewables by 2030 "means we have to cover about 55% in next 8.5 years. [That's] incredibly ambitious."
Consolidated Edison is the second-largest solar producer in the United States, through its renewables development arm, but is restricted from owning large-scale generation in New York. Cawley said the utility has been advocating to change that, and believes its experience with renewables could help to add the resources needed.
New York is targeting 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035, 6,000 MW of solar by 2025, and 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030.
While transportation is the largest source of pollution in the United States and New York state, in New York City the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions comes from buildings. ConEd sees efficiency upgrades, and geothermal and air source heat pumps, as a way to address that.
The utility plans to invest $1.5 billion by 2025 in energy efficiency, including customer incentives for ground and air-source heat pumps. "And we will triple our investment by 2030," Cawley said. Efficiency is "the best, first answer," he said.
So far, geothermal and air source heat pumps have not taken off to scale in the region, said Cawley, but "we're trying to incentivize them to develop the market for installers, and allow customers and building owners to understand the technology. We're pushing that really hard."
Older buildings in the city will eventually need deep retrofits, said Cawley, "and they can be expensive, but it will be necessary over time to get us there."
ConEd also looks for non-wires solutions before turning to traditional upgrades, a practice it has used since its Brooklyn-Queens Neighborhood Program was launched about five years ago. There, to avoid spending $1.2 billion for new substations, feeders and switching stations, the utility utilized demand-side management and smaller utility-sited resources.
"Rather than add capacity to our system, we see if we can shave the peak with demand response and energy efficiency. That's the first stop our engineers make before they plan an infrastructure project," said Cawley. "Can they eliminate the need for the new capacity?"
ConEd also has a natural gas system that Cawley acknowledges "will have to transition over the next few decades." Hydrogen and renewable natural gas are both being looked at to replace gas, he said.
The New York City Council has proposed banning the use of natural gas in new construction. Cawley said he supports the transition away from natural gas and the utility will be ready to weigh in on the measure. "We know buildings need to be addressed. We also know a broad, comprehensive, integrated approach is the best way to get there," he said.