- New York regulators took multiple steps Thursday to address potential gas shortages that have led Consolidated Edison to declare a hold on some new service requests, including approving $223 million in measures like efficiency and electrification that are aimed at reducing system demand.
- The Public Service Commission (PSC) also announced it will hold public hearings in Westchester County next week, to take comment on the utility's planned moratorium.
- Con Edison last month announced that due to rising gas demand and a dearth of new supply, it would stop taking applications for new gas connections in most of Westchester County, beginning March 15. The utility said it could soon face more demand for gas "than the existing interstate system can bring into our area."
Northeast utilities have been warning for some time that they need more gas capacity in the region, and Con Edison has been pursuing innovative "non-pipe" solutions as a way to address the shortage. But last month the utility announced it had no choice but to stop taking new applications in some areas, and the news appears to have gotten the attention of state regulators.
“Con Edison needs to move quickly and put forward innovative solutions designed to meet current and future energy demands throughout its serve territory," PSC Chair John Rhodes said in a statement.
Rhodes said the commission is providing the utility with the ability to deploy "non-traditional solutions to address the customer needs currently met with natural gas," and the commission expects Con Edison to "use these tools to help its customers and protect [the] environment."
Con Edison's moratorium in Westchester County includes new residential, commercial and industrial customer gas service connections, as well as incremental firm gas load on existing accounts.
The PSC noted that the portfolio of measures it approved does "not represent a complete solution," though the steps may offer cost-effective relief to current system constraints. The PSC said it will be "building upon these measures" and that it "will be laser focused on finding holistic and long-lasting solutions that will support clean energy strategies and economic growth."
The solutions regulators approved this week were among those that Con Edison proposed in October 2018.
In a statement to Utility Dive, Con Edison said the PSC's approval is "a step forward for our Smart Solutions for Natural Gas program, which is about using innovative ways to meet our customers' heating and cooking needs."
The utility vowed to continue to work with its "customers to help them find clean energy alternatives.” For new customers looking for heating options in Westchester County, that will likely mean further electrification.
As alternatives to new natural gas service, Con Edison is pointing customers toward rebates offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, including for geothermal and air source heat pumps.
Some customers in Westchester County do have gas options remaining, however, depending on the service being requested. They may still be able to connect to the system if they are seeking interruptible service, want to connect a natural gas-fueled emergency generator or are a small business customer in the food/beverage industry.
Con Edison also said that there are areas in the northernmost sections of Westchester County "served by a less-constrained interstate transmission pipeline."