Con Edison Outlines Pathway To Climate Resiliency And Adaptation
Report Establishes Climate Change Projections For Company’s Service Territory
Con Edison is enhancing how it plans and designs its energy delivery systems to make New York City and Westchester County more resilient against the intensifying effects of climate change.
In a report issued today, Con Edison details how it will incorporate climate change into its planning, design, operations, and emergency response. The company has taken a more proactive and forward-looking approach to climate resiliency in recent years, building on its energy industry leadership on the issue.
“The New York City region will continue to thrive in a climate-impacted 21st century, but keeping ahead of climate change requires new ways of thinking and acting,” said Nelson Yip, director of Strategic Planning, Con Edison. “The changes we are making today will help Con Edison maintain safe, reliable and resilient operations for our customers in the decades ahead.”
Con Edison’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to climate change, and the company recognizes the global scientific consensus that these changes are accelerating.
The company’s announced pathways prepare for the upper end of potential climate change, beyond the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.
Con Edison is already using its climate change projections for decision making in areas such as power supply forecasting, and will integrate climate considerations into other processes beginning in 2021. In addition, the company will form a new executive-level committee focused on climate risk and resilience.
Con Edison analyzed climate vulnerabilities across its energy delivery systems, culminating in a landmark study released in 2019. The Climate Change Implementation Plan, filed recently with the New York State Department of Public Service, represents the next step in the journey toward climate resilience.
The plan reflects not only the experience of experts across Con Edison, but also the feedback, input and experience of more than 50 stakeholders, including New York State Department of Public Service staff, municipal representatives and environmental advocacy organizations.
“The work by Con Edison to anticipate and prepare for extreme events caused or worsened by climate change advances the global state of the art,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “It represents the innovative application of advanced climate science to the highly technical details of utility system management. It will benefit not only Con Edison’s customers but also utility companies around the world that are looking for models on how to cope with climate change.”
Climate change affects nearly every aspect of Con Edison’s operations. It is accelerating the need to fortify key infrastructure, putting additional heat stress on field workers, and shifting energy consumption patterns.
The number of days when the average 24-hour temperature in Central Park is higher than 86 degrees could reach 21 per year by 2050 and 45 by 2080, compared to three such days historically.
Hotter temperatures will mean sharper spikes in summer energy consumption. That summer peak could be up to 900 megawatts higher by 2050, according to the company’s projections.
At the same time, extreme storms are becoming more frequent. Con Edison’s updated flood-design standard requires that new facilities built for 80 years of operation be able to accommodate an additional three feet of sea level rise – reflecting what is likely to be a much-altered planet by the end of the century.
While staying ahead of climate change will require additional investments, proactive efforts will bring immediate benefits by improving the “blue-sky” performance of New York’s energy grid and paving the way for more renewable energy.
As part of its Clean Energy Commitment, Con Edison, Inc. has pledged to offer its customers the chance to buy 100 percent clean electricity by 2040, accelerate the move toward electric vehicles, and invest even more aggressively in energy efficiency. The company, through its Clean Energy Businesses, is North America’s second largest generator of solar energy. Con Edison recently announced a landmark battery storage development in New York City.
While the Climate Change Implementation Plan provides a strong foundation for action, Con Edison will evolve its adaptation efforts over time based on new science and its customers’ needs. It will review its climate projections annually and update them at least every five years. The company will provide regular public reporting on its progress through its annual Sustainability Report and other disclosures.
Con Edison supports New York’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals and will do its part to help the state build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Comments of participants/stakeholders:
Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency:
“As the climate crisis worsens, we must continually adapt our systems to ensure that New York City remains a global center of innovation and opportunity. Con Edison’s efforts to harden its infrastructure and prepare for more severe extreme weather will strengthen resiliency citywide while increasing the reliability of the electric grid. We look forward to continuing to partner closely with them and our other local utilities to address climate vulnerabilities and fortify the critical infrastructure that all New Yorkers depend on.”
Elizabeth B. Stein, Lead Counsel, Energy Transition Strategy at Environmental Defense Fund:
“Con Edison’s work to build climate risk into its long-term planning puts it at the forefront of utilities preparing to meet the demands of electrification. This is good news for New Yorkers who are poised to rely more and more on the electric grid as a source of clean energy – including the growing population of electric vehicle drivers.”
Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters:
"Con Edison is leading on climate action by integrating climate change projections into everyday planning, design, and decision making. The step will make Con Edison more resilient to the effects of climate change and advance the green energy economy. We commend them on their bold environmental vision."
Anne Choate, Senior Vice President for Energy, Environment and Infrastructure at ICF:
“By establishing a clear pathway of anticipated change and integrating forward-looking climate information into core aspects of its business, Con Edison has the right foundation to manage their risks from a changing climate. Armed with this adaptive and proactive plan, Con Edison can make better investment decisions, protect its assets and workers, and support the resilience of its customers. We are proud to partner with them to set a new standard for climate resilience not only in New York, but across the country.”
Con Edison is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc. [NYSE: ED], one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies, with approximately $13 billion in annual revenues and $60 billion in assets. The utility delivers electricity, natural gas and steam to 3.5 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y.