New York state is moving forward with a Clean Energy Action Plan for Westchester County. It’s meant provide immediate relief to the county’s businesses and residents impacted by Con Edison’s moratorium on natural gas hookups.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA; Department of Public Service; and New York Power Authority announced on Thursday a $250 million Westchester Clean Energy Action Plan. It’s in response to Con Edison’s announcement that after March 15, it will no longer accept applications for new natural gas connections in most of its Westchester service area. Customers will be placed on a waiting list. Alicia Barton is president and CEO of NYSERDA.
“We’re really trying to put solutions directly in the hands of homes, businesses and new developments that might be impacted by the situation there, and make sure that they have access to the best information and choices available as well as program support for adopting measures like energy efficiency,” says Barton.
Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivered a video message Thursday about Con Ed’s moratorium.
“This is serious and threatens important development projects in Westchester County - towns, cities and villages – including affordable housing, mixed use housing, retail and commercial developments, transit-oriented development, business expansions and more,” says Latimer. “I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for recognizing the seriousness of this situation, and taking steps towards preventing the detrimental impact of this moratorium. This fight is far from over.”
Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury says the moratorium is caused by interstate pipeline constraints.
“The demand for natural gas has grown due to conversions from oil and a preference for natural gas in new buildings. Meanwhile, interstate transmission capacity into our area has not grown, and it became clear to us that we would not be able to continue to hook up new firm gas customers in the moratorium area without placing reliability at risk,” Drury says. “We continue to explore non-pipeline solutions as well as pipeline proposals that can get state, federal and local approvals in order to meet our customers’ heating and cooking needs.”
NYSERDA’s Barton says the $250 million clean energy investment program includes $165 million in grants from the Smart Solutions package that the Public Service Commission recently directed Con Edison to deploy for heat pumps and increasing gas efficiency for residential, multifamily and commercial and industrial customers.
“We know that many people in the wake of this announcement have had a lot of questions, want to understand what their options are, and I can say that NYSERDA is committed to helping those consumers and that we’ve been working really closely with Con Ed, who’s also actively engaged in that discussion,” Barton says.
The plan also includes $28 million for grants for new customers, including low-to-moderate residential developments waitlisted by Con Edison for natural gas to use alternative heating and cooling systems and adopt energy efficient solutions. Barton believes the state support will last over the next few years.
“The state is actively reviewing the natural gas supply situation in that area, reviewing Con Ed’s decision, and has already committed to providing further analysis about that later this year via the Department of Public Service. So we’re waiting for some of those questions to be answered to get better clarity on what the long-term needs might be,” says Barton. “But, in the meantime, we do think this is an extremely robust package of targeted support that will have a real impact on any businesses or customers that are affected in the interim time.”
“We have an obligation as the county government to respond to this and to continue to fight,” Latimer says. “We are still working with the municipalities that are impacted by this moratorium – we are keeping them informed and helping them get the resources they need to manage the projects that are at risk.”
Meantime, the moratorium drew the attention of the Village of New Paltz in Ulster County. Mayor Tim Rogers, saying the Con Ed moratorium on new gas hookups presents an opportunity to walk the talk for climate solutions, proposed a resolution that passed unanimously February 27, calling upon Con Ed to “keep its fracked gas hookup moratorium in place and make it permanent.”