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Another $1.2 Billion Substation? No Thanks, Says Utility, We’ll Find a Better…

Another $1.2 Billion Substation? No Thanks, Says Utility, We’ll Find a Better…

    In a novel project ConEd will deploy a mix of distributed solar, fuel cells and efficiency measures to address New York City’s surging power demand.

    Bill Allowing Oil Exports Gives Bigger Lift to Renewables and the Climate

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    Consolidated Edison, the iconic utility that provides New York City’s electricity, discovered a problem in the summer of 2014. Within a few years, the demand for power in an area spanning parts of Brooklyn and Queens would outpace what existing infrastructure could supply, especially during the peak demand of the hottest summer days.

    The traditional solution would be to add a substation. But that would cost 1.2 billion or more and represent a more-of-the-same approach to the electric grid—a central station with long inefficient wires, less resilience to the effects of climate change and more fossil fuel use. Con Ed was not thrilled.

    So it came up with a completely different approach. Con Ed solicited ideas for smaller, cheaper, nontraditional and ideally more environmentally friendly solutions. So far, the company has received more than 80 suggestions and has turned many of them into the Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management project.

    BQDM, as it’s called, is a plan that reimagines the area’s grid for 21st century climate changes, especially longer, hotter summers. While the specifics are not fully formed, BDQM is likely to harness state-of-the-art grid management, emissions-free on-site power generation and basic customer-side energy efficiency, which is already going into effect.

    The cost: About 200 million, less than one-fifth the price of a substation.

    The low price tag and the concept have utilities, regulators, public officials, electricity experts and environmentalists nationwide watching to see whether BQDM will work. The project sets ConEd apart from other big power companies that have fought rooftop solar electricity and other clean energy solutions that disrupt their established business model.

    “This could be a harbinger of similar types of pilots that could happen elsewhere,” said Omar Siddiqui, a senior technical executive specializing in energy use at the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded nonprofit. “Other utilities are certainly paying attention to what’s happening here.”

    The project is fundamentally designed to relieve the demand for electricity from the Brooklyn-Queens part of the grid, which Con Ed calculates will be overloaded by 69 megawatts in 2018. The plan calls for 52 megawatts of relief by summer 2018 through a combination of efficiency and new, mainly clean generation. The remaining 17 megawatts would most likely come from traditional utility infrastructure projects.

    Of the 52 megawatts, 41 megawatts would come from efficiency and conservation measures by consumers as well as new distributed power sources, such as fuel cells and neighborhood-scale solar. The remaining 11 megawatts would be utility-scale projects.

    “This is something that can be replicated in every location of the country,” said Richard Kauffman, the state chairman of energy and finance who is known as New York’s energy czar. “It’s not only an evolution of processes, thinking and culture, it’s also a gradual change in business models, evolving away from ‘programs’ to these activities being integral to the business itself.”

    According to Con Ed regulatory filings, an energy storage system is expected to be in operation by early 2017 as one of the utility-side solutions. Demand and voltage management systems that will handle electricity flow more efficiently are being considered, as are grid-scale clean energy systems such as fuel cells.

    It will be up to Con Ed to stitch it all together into a grid that is integrated with the existing central station model but one in which consumers—whether businesses, building operators or individual households—can buy or sell electricity through the grid. The system will also have to manage supply and demand more dynamically.

    “By the end of this project in ‘18, you will see multi-technology solutions,” said Greg Elcock, Con Ed’s BQDM project manager. “At this point, any measure that seeks to reduce electric demand—we either have or are looking at that.”

    Proposals will be evaluated against three criteria: cost versus benefit, ease of implementation and how quickly they could be put in place. Wind power, for instance, would be impractical in the area.

    Time may be most critical factor. With a 12 megawatt reduction targeted for this summer, Con Ed is scrambling to simply reduce the demand for electricity.

    It is pulling existing lighting upgrade programs off the shelf and juicing them up, eliminating requirements that customers share part of the costs. As simple as that sounds, there are still challenges.

    The project area currently has about 310,000 customers. While it’s not packed with the skyscrapers that are just across the river in Manhattan, the area is dense with multi-family dwellings, including 29,000 public housing apartments in 60 buildings. There are some single-family homes, and about 15 percent of customers are businesses. But renters are the norm, and they are one of the hardest markets to crack with incentives for energy efficiency.

    For public housing, Con Ed is working through an existing New York City Housing Authority program to switch lighting to more efficient LEDs. Con Ed is also looking for a way to provide incentives for public housing tenants and other multi-family buildings (ones with five or more units) to install more-efficient air conditioning. Window air conditioners, which leak a lot of cool air out of window openings, remain in widespread use.

    “Energy efficiency doesn’t seem to be particularly futuristic,” Elcock said. ”But what we have to bear in mind is what we are actually trying to do. Traditional utilities or companies would have not considered these type of solutions at all.”

    another, billion, substation, thanks, utility, find

    than 720 multi-unit buildings accounting for more than 5,000 apartments are already participating for a load reduction of 3 megawatts. than 3,800 small businesses have taken or have agreed to take energy efficiency steps for an additional reduction of nearly 5.5 megawatts.

    Education and outreach to customers is critical. But it’s not always successful the first time—or even the fourth time, as in the case of Heritage Foods, a mail-order farm-to-table meat warehouse in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

    A representative from the BQDM lighting program visited many times, said Alexes McLaughlin, Heritage’s director of marketing.

    “I probably personally turned him away four or five times,” she said. “It sounded like a scam because they were offering to upgrade our fixtures ‘at no cost to you and the savings will be huge.’”

    But she finally listened, and now the warehouse’s giant old halogen lights are gone, replaced with new, efficient fixtures. Every bulb in the place has been swapped out. McLaughlin said the savings are hard to calculate because Heritage added two new refrigeration units at about the same time.

    “I think that we were just surprised that this was a concern at all,” McLaughlin said. “We hadn’t thought about the impact that so many small steps could make on a larger neighborhood.”

    Relying on existing programs initially is a good move since they’ve already been approved by regulators, said Karl Rabago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at Pace Law School in New York. Rabago has an extensive background as an energy executive and regulator in Texas and at the U.S. Department of Energy.

    “I’m hoping this will lead to a lesson—that, okay, we can’t just turn up the volume on the old stuff,” Rabago said. To succeed, he said, Con Ed will need a more holistic approach. “My overall assessment is, good start, good way to think about it, they seem to be speaking the right stuff,” Rabago said. “I want to see this graduate to real and not just opportunistic.”

    He and others congratulate Con Ed for taking on BQDM.

    “We really look at this as very much representative of the future of what energy efficiency can be and do,” said Jim O’Reilly, director of public policy for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. “Every jurisdiction that has an issue about potentially staring down a multi-billion dollar investment in poles and wires should be looking at the non-wires alternative.”

    Just over a year into the BQDM process, Jackson Morris, director of eastern energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it appears headed in the right direction.

    “The reason why this is an important piece to look at is that the overarching philosophy of the [public service] commission, utilities and the stakeholders is, How do we do this differently?” Morris said. “How do we look at alternatives to the old way that can save money for consumers and be good for the environment at the same time?”

    Companies interested in BQDM projects include SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar company, and Bloom Energy, a fuel cell company that specializes in units small enough to fit on the roofs of buildings. Bloom Energy is installing units in Times Square.

    “It’s a way to test out the concepts we’ve been preaching for a while now,” said Jamil Khan, SolarCity’s deputy director of policy and electricity markets. “I think there’s an eagerness from the utility side and from the distributed energy resources provider side to do something new and interesting and exciting, and there’s a lot of collaboration going on here, where you don’t necessarily see that sort of collegiality elsewhere.”

    In its BQDM project, Con Ed has figured out a way to make the idea of using less energy more desirable for utilities, said Charles Fox, Bloom’s senior director of regulatory affairs and business development.

    “I think it’s probably the most tangible real-life example of the concept of the utility of the future,” Fox said. “You know the old classic saying—‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.’ If they can do this in New York, I think they’re going to be able to do it in service territories all across the country and all around the world.”

    Community Solar for Master Metered Buildings

    Here Comes Solar, a program of Solar One is an environmental education non-profit in NYC. We provide education and resources to help New Yorkers reduce energy costs with solar energy.

    Our community solar team enrolls Con Edison subscribers into community solar projects to save them money on their energy bills. Community solar is a great way to receive guaranteed savings while installing nothing on the roof of your buildings and comply with Local Law 97.

    SAVING IS EASY WITH SOLAR

    By enrolling in a community solar project, you’ll receive guaranteed annual savings on your energy bills. Nothing will be installed on the rooftops of the buildings you manage and you’ll receive an enrollment bonus for signing up.

    WHAT IS COMMUNITY SOLAR?

    Community solar is a shared energy system where the solar panels are installed at a third party location and the value of electricity produced lowers your Con Edison bill with Solar Credits.

    • Nothing is installed on the rooftops of your buildings
    • There is no upfront cost to enroll
    • You pay for a portion of the Solar Credits – guaranteeing savings!

    TIMELINE

    To secure your spot in a community solar project, you will be asked to provide copies of your Con Edison bills and execute a contract. See more detail below.

    Complete intake form and upload 12 months of Con Edison bills or email the bills to enrollment@solar1.org. We’ll review the bills and provide estimated savings. The intake form only allows for one file to be uploaded, please upload one file containing 12 months of bills or send us an email with multiple bill files attached.

    Woodfield Renewables is the community solar developer installing the solar arrays. You will execute a community solar subscription agreement with them. See below for more information about their company.

    The solar agreement is the contract that will provide the terms of the subscription. Some terms include:

    • 10 % discount
    • No upfront fee
    • No cancellation fee provided 1 year cancellation notice

    You can expect to start receiving savings ~9 months after contract execution. The enrollment bonus will be paid within 90 days after contract execution.

    MEET WOODFIELD RENEWABLES

    Woodfield Renewables is managing community solar development. As a interested subscriber, you will be introduced to this group.

    Woodfield Renewable Partners is focused on acquiring, owning, and operating long-term distributed generation solar storage assets in the CI and community solar segments. By leveraging our team’s combined 30 years of experience and extensive industry network, Woodfield Renewable Partners can provide a customized development and financial strategy with the goal of deploying more distributed solar and storage across North America.

    View Portfolio, Contact information and Learn here! Woodfield Renewables

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    Solar panels are installed at a third party location, typically a warehouse. The electricity generated from the solar panels goes to Con Edison’s grid and are converted into a monetary credit. That monetary credit or Solar Credit, is applied to the subscriber’s Con Edison bill, lowering those charges. The subscriber pays for 90% of the value of the Solar Credit through their Con Edison bill.

    The subscriber will only pay for 90% of the value of the Solar Credits and the remaining 10% is ed savings.

    After executing the community solar agreement with Woodfield Renewables you will see the savings in about 9 months.

    The building must be master metered with an EL8 rate class (found on the Con Edison bill).

    No, all payments will go through Con Edison and the building can continue with the current payment method it has set up.

    You can cancel at any time with no fee or penalty given 365 days (1 year) written notice.

    One goal of this initiative is to allocate large solar arrays to one building bill to maximize savings. If a building chooses to leave the program, Solar One and Woodfield Renewables will need up to 1 year to find a replacement building.

    Con Edison Customers Going Solar in New York | YSG Solar

    Con Edison customers throughout New York have been going solar at a Rapid rate in recent years. Of course, this is largely due to lower costs for solar installations and a wider availability of incentives rebates for solar adopters, but a series of upgrades to Con Edison distribution equipment a number of years ago have also played a significant role in the increased solar uptake among ConEd customers.

    Other efforts to expand solar deployment among Con Edison customers have included the elimination of engineering reviews for most residential solar projects. and the expedition of solar projects up to 300 kW, easing the approval process.

    The New York City Solar Map

    Con Edison also contributed to the creation of the NYC Solar Map. This is an online tool which allows users to view solar potential, installation costs, and availability of rebates for any building in New York City. In addition, the map displays solar statistics for the entire state, including:

    • Total Installed Solar Power Generation Capacity (in Megawatts)
    • Status of Solar Projects: Completed In Progress
    • Local Cost of Solar (/Watt) vs. State Average
    • Installed Solar Power Generation Capacity by Sector (in Megawatts)
    • Completed Solar Installations by Sector
    • Local Cost of Solar (/Watt) by Sector

    The interactive map also displays a range of solar statistics and can be tweaked to suit the user’s needs.

    Con Edison Solar Growth in New York

    These efforts from ConEd have driven up the number of solar installations among the utility’s customers across NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and the entirety of New York State. Thanks to the availability of government incentives, going solar has become increasingly affordable for both residential and commercial energy customers, while increased solar deployment also benefits Con Edison directly—reducing the stress on the energy grid at peak times. This creates a positive feedback loop, allowing Con Edison to hand the benefit back to NY energy customers in the form of safe, reliable electric service.

    Con Edison’s Upgraded Network Protectors

    One technological upgrade which allowed Con Edison to further boost solar PV deployment in New York was the application of Smart grid technology. The integration of Smart grid technology a number of years ago has allowed for the interconnection of some of the largest solar projects in NY history.

    Upgrades to network protectors have allowed for large net-metered projects to operate efficiently by feeding power from the solar panels into the Con Edison grid. When first presented with the challenge of interconnection for large PV projects. Con Edison engineers worked on developing a controls, data acquisition, and communications scheme which would allow the network protectors to function as desired for these larger projects.

    Prior to these upgrades, network protectors with conventional settings would open in response to a particularly large flow of electricity into the grid, blacking out the customer. With the relays on network protectors brought about by these upgrades, the protectors can remain closed for large flows of power into the grid, while also being capable of opening if an actual fault is detected.

    This relay approach also allows ConEd control room operators to monitor solar panel operations, isolating feeders remotely if necessary. For utility planners, the controls provide an important load growth forecasting and system planning tool. This improved engineering setup has facilitated the interconnection of solar PV installations at manufacturing plants in Queens. warehouses in the Bronx, and a host of other locations statewide.

    The Importance of Isolating Feeders

    Through its work on the interconnection of PV systems. Con Edison came to understand the importance of managing two-way flow on the energy grid. Smart switching installations and operations are now commonplace, involving the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) group, control room operators and field groups. Control room operators are trained on the potential of expediting feeder scheduling and the manner in which feeders can be isolated remotely from the control room. Prior to these advances, the utility would send a field worker out if a network protector didn’t open. Now, operators have increased visibility and control over what is happening.

    The commitment of utilities such as Con Edison to technological advancements has led to the accelerated development of solar in New York City. With these Smart grid improvements such as those outlined above, and the continued availability of solar incentives, the trend of solar growth in NY looks set to continue well into the future.

    If you’re interested in developing your own New York solar project then get in touch with YSG Solar today. YSG has over ten years of experience in the solar industry, developing both small and large-scale projects across the state of New York and beyond. Call the office at 212.389.9215 or send us an email to learn how much you could save with solar.

    YSG Solar is a project development company responsible for commoditizing energy infrastructure projects. We work with long-term owners and operators to provide clean energy assets with stable, predictable cash flows. YSG’s market FOCUS is distributed generation and utility-scale projects located within North America.

    Why is my Con Edison bill so high?

    New York City is notorious for being expensive, and electricity costs are no different. But if your utility bills from Con Edison have been higher than usual, you’re not alone. Recently, some New Yorkers saw their Con Ed bills double or triple in just one month, despite there being no differences in usage from the last month.

    Here’s the deal about why your Con Edison bill is so high, and what you can do about it.

    Brief History of Con Ed Energy Costs in NYC

    Across the country, utility rates are on the rise. In January of 2022, the national average electric rate was up 8 percent from the previous year, while New York State saw an increase of 15 percent. New York City is notorious for its energy prices, with New Yorkers paying an average of 35 to 40 percent more for electricity than the rest of the country – despite being very energy efficient.

    If you pay an electric bill in NYC, we don’t have to tell you that Con Ed’s rates have been increasing for years. In 2019, the average residential bill at 300 kWh was 65.42, and in 2022, it was 84.10.

    These rate increases are a result of Con Ed’s operating costs being passed on to customers. The costs associated with maintaining electrical infrastructure and with delivering energy to a densely populated area are high, and they continue to grow as the system requires further upgrades. Plus, most of our electricity comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which will always be subject to the volatility of the market.

    Are you a homeowner in NYC looking to switch to clean energy? Get Started with Solar

    Why are energy bills so high right now?

    In January and February of 2022, many New Yorkers were hit with sticker shock when they received their electric bills. Con Ed customers across the city saw their bills double or even triple, despite using no more energy than the months before.

    How Con Edison Supply and Delivery Charges Work

    On your Con Edison bill, you have two main charges: supply and delivery. The delivery charge is the cost of transporting energy into your home and is regulated by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The supply charge is the cost Con Ed pays for the energy it transports to you. Neither Con Ed nor the PSC sets these rates, as they’re subject to the energy market as a whole.

    The recent spike in electric bills was due to a sudden increase in supply charges, not delivery. Around 70 percent of the electricity used in NYC is powered by natural gas, which has been more expensive for the past several months due to the pandemic and the war in Eastern Europe. Con Ed sells energy to you at cost – it’s not legally allowed to profit from the sale of electricity – so in this case, it’s not all Con Ed’s fault.

    However, the Gov. Kathy Hochul called on Con Edison to reform its billing practices after this surge came as such a shock to customers, particularly those who were already financially strained due to the pandemic.

    Are these soaring electric costs here to stay?

    At this point, the recent surge has begun to level out. But one thing is clear: the cost of electricity is on the rise across the board, and major rate hikes are bound to happen again. The price of natural gas will always rise and fall with supply and demand. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time that you’ll be left wondering why your Con Edison bill is so high.

    Why are my Con Edison delivery charges so high?

    In 2020, the PSC approved a three-year incremental increase in electric rates totaling 13.5 percent. In February of 2023, Con Ed requested another increase of 12 percent over 3 years starting in June of 2023. The reasoning behind these increases is to fund infrastructure upgrades and invest in clean energy initiatives.

    But there’s a better way to invest in clean energy as a homeowner. Take control of your energy costs by installing rooftop solar.

    Brooklyn SolarWorks can help! Get in Touch

    How can New Yorkers combat high electric bills?

    It may feel like the cost of electricity is out of your control. The solutions can vary depending on your home situation and income level. But no matter what your situation, there are some things you can consider doing to help offset your energy usage and monthly bills.

    Invest in Solar Energy

    As a solar installation company, we would be remiss not to mention solar energy as a solution to combating electric bills. If you’re a homeowner in NYC, installing solar on your roof is the single best way to cut down on your electric bill. In fact, many of our customers’ systems produce enough energy to eliminate their electricity charges from Con Ed altogether. After your solar panel installation, you’ll reduce your reliance on Con Ed and on fossil fuels, and you’ll have access to free, renewable energy for decades.

    If you’re looking for energy independence, solar is the answer. Learn About Residential Solar

    Use Energy Efficient Appliances

    When it comes to the energy consumption of household appliances, the solution is not always clean cut. Appliances responsible for heating, cooling, refrigeration, hot water heating, and laundry are huge energy users, but they’re also necessities. So what’s the solution?

    Investing in energy efficient appliances can make a big difference in your home’s energy usage and therefore, your electricity bill. If you own a home, installing efficient appliances like these could make a big impact:

    • Air source heat pump
    • Heat pump water heater
    • Energy Star washing machines and refrigerators
    • Energy efficient lighting, window AC units, fans, and more

    Consider Your Everyday Usage

    Regardless of home situation or budget, there’s a lot of little things we can all do to be more conscious of our energy consumption. Here’s a few small ways you can make a difference in your usage everyday:

    • Turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use and when you’re not at home.
    • Be mindful of the temperature you keep your home. According to NYSERDA, each degree above 75°F that you set your air conditioner’s thermostat saves you 3 percent of the energy used to cool your home.
    • Take advantage of insulation and shades to keep your home warm and cold naturally.
    • Run your dishwasher in the morning or evening to avoid adding to electricity demand in the middle of the day.
    • Wash your laundry in cold water, and opt to air dry your garments.

    Does Con Edison have sustainability initiatives?

    Con Edison has been developing sustainability initiatives for several years. In 2021, it committed to 100% clean electricity by 2040. To that end, it has made progress towards the electrification of buildings and transportation, and building out numerous solar and wind projects across the country.

    another, billion, substation, thanks, utility, find

    We’re glad that one of NYC’s main utility companies is committing to sustainability goals, as any progress towards clean energy is positive in the long run. But, these initiatives will translate to higher and higher bills from Con Ed for years to come.

    You can avoid the continued volatility of Con Ed bills by installing solar on your home. By investing in your own solar energy system, you’ll be able to take advantage of clean energy right away – no waiting on Con Ed to make its system upgrades, and no unexpected rate hikes in the meantime. Rooftop solar gives you energy independence. Why pay Con Ed for clean energy in the future, when you could produce it in your own home right now?

    another, billion, substation, thanks, utility, find

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