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Utility 2.0: What are Utilities Doing to Meet New York's Vision for a 21st Century Energy System?

By Abbey Brown

nyc skylineSince the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:

CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program

Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:

  • Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
  • Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
  • Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.

PSE&G LONG ISLAND – Utility 2.0 Action Plan

PSE&G Long Island, which took over from the Long Island Power Authority in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, has developed its own Utility 2.0 Action Plan. PSE&G Long Island is ready to invest up to $200 million in infrastructure improvements and energy efficiency measures to help address peak capacity issues as part of a plan that will be updated yearly. PSE&G Long Island will also focus particularly on the Rockaways area in Queens, which was hit hard by Sandy.  Measures include:

  • Demand Response: A demand response program to improve electric grid efficiency. The utility is currently seeking proposals for such a program to help meet growing energy needs by 2019.
  • Energy Efficiency: A program to roll out retrofits to customers, including upgrades to heating/ air conditioning units and lighting systems, as well as an appliance replacement program.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Incentives for commercial customers to install combined heat and power systems, which simultaneously produce electricity and heat from a single fuel source and can operate independently from the grid when it fails.
  • Renewable Energy: An incentive program for solar energy installations between 200 and 2,000 kilowatt hours; solar projects within this range are currently not eligible for state incentives. The utility will also consider expanding rebates given to geothermal heating projects.

CENTRAL HUDSON – Value for our Valley

As part of its ‘Value for our Valley’ plan, Central Hudson Gas & Electric has come up with a plan to prepare for future storms, make its electric grid cleaner and more efficient, and improve service and reliability for their customers. The utility has committed to spending $215 million over the next two years to improve its system. Measures include:

  • Demand response: A proposed demand response program for small businesses, facilities, and groups of residential customers to incentivize energy conservation during periods of peak electricity demand.
  • Microgrids: Microgridsfor which customers can purchase a subscription in areas such as business parks, campuses, urban areas, and neighborhoods in the region.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Enhanced voltage control, a technology to optimize electricity current flows, to reduce electricity waste, the use of automated devices to fix grid issues as they occur, and new technology to help integrate renewable energy into the grid.
  • Renewable Energy: Large-scale solar farms that would allow customers to purchase solar energy on a subscription basis.

NATIONAL GRID – Connect 21

Since before the REV proceeding opened, National Grid had already been working on bringing its electric system into the 21st century. National Grid plans to invest nearly $10 billion in infrastructure over the next five years and is working to align company investments with the ongoing REV proceeding. This program, called Connect21, aims to drive economic growth in states and cities, reduce harmful pollution, promote cleaner energy, and improve grid efficiency. Measures include:

  • Demand Response: A demand response program, already in place, that helps buildings lower energy costs during periods of peak electricity demand.
  • Microgrids: A planned underground microgrid at Clarkson University in upstate New York, to be funded with the help of a state grant.
  • Energy Efficiency: The launch of a multi-family energy efficiency pilot that will focus on heating equipment in a Queens residential building complex with 1,500 apartments and reduce heating costs by an estimated 15 percent.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Grid technologies that will make pricing information transparent and lead to greater customer engagement.

While the REV proceeding is still underway, these utilities aren’t wasting any time in acting. Add to this the recent Commission order calling for demonstration projects that align with the proceeding, and the NYPrize competition awarding state funds to microgrid projects, and it is clear New York state is aggressively laying the foundation for a cleaner energy future. EDF will be watching these utilities to follow their progress, as well as the shape of New York’s evolving utility sector.

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