Walter Alvarado, Vice President, System & Transmission Operation at Con Edison
After decades of little change in their business model, companies that provide the energy to light, heat and cool Americans’ homes and businesses are embracing a new mission.
Energy companies are using technology and deep analysis of rich data to contribute to a cleaner future, and Con Edison is at the forefront of this transition.
Safety and reliability remain industry imperatives. But now forward-thinking, socially-responsible utilities across the country have added a third one: taking the environment into account in every decision we make.
Con Edison recently took another step in its leadership of this movement when it gained New York State Public Service Commission approval to invest $780 million in three important transmission projects. These projects will help move renewable energy – including 9,000 megawatts of planned offshore wind – to population pockets.
Our company proposed these Reliable Clean City Projects in anticipation of the retirement of “peaker” generating units with capacity of 15 megawatts or more. Those fossil fuel-fired, simple-cycle combustion turbines run at times of high demand, and are low in efficiency and high in emissions. In New York, electricity usage peaks during the summer when air quality is worst.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in 2019 these units must greatly limit their nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions or go out of service.
The transmission lines will connect to areas where these peaking plants are located, and ensure that our system remains reliable once the peaking plants stop operating. One line will run between a pair of substations in northern Queens; a second will connect substations in southern Brooklyn; and the third will traverse northern Staten Island.
Due to New York’s density, we will build our lines underground, ensuring maximum reliability, particularly during severe overhead weather events, which are becoming more frequent and devastating.
Once we finish the engineering, we will order the transformers, phase angle regulators, and cable. The Queens line will be in service by the summer of 2023 and Brooklyn and Staten Island by the summer of 2025.
The Sierra Club, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and UPROSE support Con Edison’s projects because the projects are designed to reduce pollutants in environmental justice communities.
The transmission projects are among a wide range of clean energy solutions Con Edison is putting in place to help New York State and New York City meet their ambitious clean energy goals. In less than 10 years – by 2030 – we want to triple our energy efficiency programs and to get 70 percent of our power from renewables. Our company seeks to offer 100-percent zero-emission electricity by 2040.
Our company is all in on electric vehicles. We recently hit a milestone with our new PowerReady program when a large apartment building in Midtown Manhattan became the first property to take advantage of the incentives, which are among the most aggressive in the country.
Under PowerReady, Con Edison will provide incentives for about 19,000 charging plugs across New York City and Westchester County by the end of 2025. Those will include more than 18,500 level 2 chargers and 450 direct-current fast chargers. The program already has hundreds of applications and is seeing diverse interest across the region, including from public charging stations, multi-family buildings and workplaces.
It is clear that meeting the city and state environmental goals will require a dramatic reduction in emissions from transportation. By making charging easier and more convenient for drivers, PowerReady will speed the adoption of electric vehicles, which will mean cleaner air and water, better health, and a more robust economy.
We can maximize the benefit of the vast amounts of renewable energy that will become part of New York State’s portfolio in the coming decade by pairing it with battery storage. Large-scale storage allows the storage of energy for times the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.
Con Edison and 174 Power Global, which specializes in renewable energy projects, recently announced a 100-megawatt storage system in Astoria, Queens near the East River. The symbolism is nice. The site used to house a fossil fuel plant that has been shuttered.
Because we think electric vehicles and battery storage will play integral roles in our clean energy future, we are experimenting with combining the two technologies at a site in Brooklyn. Con Edison and Centrica Business Solutions will place a 5-megawatt storage system and 18 vehicle chargers on utility-owned property in Brooklyn, transforming an empty lot into a hub of clean energy innovation.
Our investments match our commitment and reflect our optimism about the economic power of clean energy. Through our Clean Energy Businesses, Con Edison Inc. is the second largest producer or solar energy in North America and seventh largest in the world.
At Con Edison, we believe that if we respond smartly and aggressively, we can parlay the climate crisis into a sustainable future and build an economy vibrant with good-paying green jobs.
Our 14,000 men and women have are dedicated to making it happen.
Walter Alvarado is vice president, System and Transmission Operations, for Consolidated Edison Co, of New York, which serves 3.5 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y.