Developers and officials throughout Westchester may be able to breathe a sigh of relief after Con Edison announced Wednesday a plan that could increase natural gas capacity for much of the county.
The agreement with the owner of the Tennessee Pipeline would upgrade the compression facilities on its system outside of the state to improve the natural gas supplies available to Con Edison, according to a statement released by the utility.
If Con Edison receives the required approvals, incremental capacity increases could occur by November 2023.
The potential capacity increase would be done in conjunction with ongoing efforts to promote and advance renewable energy and alternative technologies, said Con Edison President Tim Cawley.
“This project offers a reasonable, sensible approach to allow an orderly transition to the renewable energy future we all desire,” Cawley said. “The solution provides the time needed to improve non-pipeline technology and make it widely available. The additional natural gas capacity will continue to support economic growth in our region, while reducing reliance on heating oil and the need for locally delivered compressed and liquid natural gas.”
The news came as there has been continued outcry from municipal and county officials that the moratorium, announced on Jan. 18 and put into effect on Mar. 15, threatens to halt economic redevelopment throughout the county. During those two months, Con Edison received 1,600 applications for gas service in the moratorium area, the utility noted.
Property owners who submitted those applications by Mar. 15, will have two years from that time to get their projects approved and built to receive gas service, Christine Cummings, general manager, project management and customer programs for Con Edison, said during a presentation last month in New Castle.
The Tennessee Pipeline serves most of Westchester, cutting through the center of the county. Westchester’s northernmost communities –Peekskill, Cortlandt, Yorktown, Somers, Lewisboro and North Salem – are serviced by the Algonquin Pipeline and have not been subject to the moratorium.
Cawley said Con Edison will continuing to implement the company’s $223 million Smart Solutions program for customers who are interested in alternatives to natural gas. Those alternatives include monetary incentives to electrify heating systems, upgrade HVAC controls, install geothermal heat pumps or weatherization.
A statement released Wednesday afternoon by the Business Council of Westchester said that Con Edison’s announcement offers “a ray of hope” but incremental increases of natural gas in four-and-a-half years and the uncertainties of renewables and alternative technologies still present a difficult road.
“We applaud Con Edison for this initiative and other actions the company is exploring to alleviate the crisis,” the Business Council of Westchester statement read. “However, the underlying energy shortage remains a serious issue that is already taking a toll and will continue to loom over the region and threaten our economic viability.”
Demand for natural gas in New York City and Westchester has grown significantly in recent years as a result of conversions of heating systems from oil, as well as economic growth, with developers preferring natural gas in new buildings.
Look for updates to this story as more information becomes available.