Temperatures in New York City are rising faster than previously expected and grid investments must accelerate to keep pace, according to a new report from Consolidated Edison, the city’s electric provider.
The utility’s 2023 Climate Change Vulnerability Study “provides alarming evidence that climate change will affect the lives of New Yorkers sooner and more severely than [we] had previously thought,” Con Edison Chairman and CEO Tim Cawley said in a statement.
The new study shows rapid increases in temperatures relative to a 2019 assessment.
By 2030, Con Edison expects New York City to experience up to 17 days a year with temperatures of 95 degrees or higher — up from four days a year historically. The 2019 study estimated the city would experience 11 days annually with temperatures 95 degrees or higher.
Con Edison also expects that by 2040 New York City will experience 27 high-temperature days and by 2050 that number will rise to 32. The 2019 report had estimated 18 and 23 such days, respectively.
Heat-related system impacts include decreased asset capacity, accelerated asset degradation and increased system load, the vulnerability report said.
“Operating at ambient temperatures above a design reference can decrease the operational rating of an asset. In turn, derating the system ... due to increasing temperatures decreases the resilience capability of the system by decreasing capacity,” the report said. “When the capacity of the system is decreased, Con Edison will seek approval to make investments to replace lost capacity.”
Climate change is “an existential and multifaceted threat,” according to the report. Other risks to Con Edison’s service territory include flooding, as the city sees more days with heavy rain, and downed power lines as maximum wind speeds increase and hurricanes become more likely. There are also risks from ice forming on overhead power lines and trees.
Michael Gerrard, a professor at Columbia University Law School and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, praised the utility’s analysis.
“The company is taking a leading role among energy companies in making investments to ensure continued reliable service in the face of escalating climate change,” Gerrard said in a statement.
Con Edison says it has invested more than $1 billion over the last decade in resilience initiatives to strengthen its system.
Rising demand is also creating resource adequacy issues for the nation’s largest metropolis. New York City faces a 446 MW deficit in its reliability margin beginning in the summer of 2025, according to a July report by the state’s grid operator. Building electrification and electric vehicle charging are key drivers behind the reliability deficit, as are the retirement of peaker plants facing new emissions limits.