One of New York’s wealthiest areas is hungry for natural gas and Consolidated Edison Inc. has come up with one solution: Get low- to moderate-income customers to conserve.
Westchester County, just north of Manhattan, has been using so much gas that ConEd last month said it would stop accepting new applications for service on March 15. And to satisfy the surge in demand there, the utility has come up with a conservation plan that includes getting less-wealthy customers, multifamily properties and government buildings to cut their own gas use.
The gas supply crunch and ensuing moratorium is affecting new construction in one of the most affluent parts of New York State, where almost 1 million residents have a median household income of $90,000. It also threatens to slow a regional transition from heating oil to cleaner-burning natural gas.
Gas supplies are tight because of both demand and constraints to pipelines entering ConEd’s service area, the utility said as early as last year. Demand is also surging as local governments phase out high-polluting fuel oil units amid low gas prices and as ConEd customers rush to gas to save money. It will cost an average $752 to heat a home in the U.S. Northeast with gas this winter compared with $1,520 for heating oil, according to the U.S. Energy Administration Administration.
The $233 million ConEd program is designed to lower gas demand through energy-efficiency measures and the deployment of ground-source heat pump technology to “maintain reliability for existing customers,” according to a statement Thursday from the regulator, the New York Public Service Commission. They would also cut costs for consumers.
The commission called on ConEd to “urgently” find and develop clean-energy solutions to ensure system reliability. Regulators will hold a public hearing on the utility’s decision to temporarily suspend new gas service Feb. 13 in Westchester County.
ConEd is “using innovative ways to meet our customers’ heating and cooking needs,’’ spokesman Allan Drury said in an email. “We will continue to work with our customers to help them find clean energy alternatives.’’
Westchester County borders New York City to the south, Fairfield County, Connecticut, to the east and both the Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. Roadways, bridges and mass transportation have seen much of the county become nearly as densely developed as New York City.