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ConEd reveals new plans to reduce NY gas use, prioritize lower-emissions options

Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. intends to grow its heat pump offerings and explore options for renewable natural gas, hydrogen and geothermal heating as it continues to attempt to reduce gas use in Westchester County, N.Y., amid supply constraints.

The plans mark the next phase of the company's Smart Solutions program, an initiative to fund energy efficiency, electrification and other alternatives to gas in the service territory north of New York City. The company intends to issue a second request for information within the next month to line up more solutions to reduce gas consumption, the company said in a Jan. 13 news release

New York regulators approved the $223 million plan in February 2019, shortly after ConEd announced a moratorium on new gas hookups in most of its Westchester service area. The Smart Solutions program is one part of ConEd's strategy for dealing with pipeline capacity constraints in the region.

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ConEd expects its heat pump offerings to expand "significantly" in 2020, saying it has requested additional incentive funding from state regulators. About 30 Westchester customers have tapped the program to heat their homes with geothermal heat pumps, according to ConEd.

The company will also aim to decarbonize its distribution system by seeking proposals for renewable natural gas, a form of the fuel processed from waste sources such as dairy farms and landfills, and by testing processes for mixing hydrogen into gas supplies.

ConEd additionally plans to study the idea of, and pilot, using geothermal loops in place of gas infrastructure, potentially leading to a project to heat an entire neighborhood with geothermal energy.

The Smart Solutions program is also aimed at helping ConEd support state targets spelled out in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which codified into law the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and generating 100% emissions-free power by 2040.

ConEd said it would continue to meet customer demand for gas, despite supply constraints, through arrangements with interstate pipeline operators hammered out in 2019 and by continuing to secure compressed natural gas.

New York's ambitious climate and clean energy targets and its refusal to permit new gas pipelines have created challenges for the state's gas utilities. National Grid USA reached an agreement in November 2019 to lift a New York City gas moratorium. The agreement includes developing methods for reducing gas use and supporting fossil fuel alternatives.