Newtown Creek National Grid

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Screen grab from National Grid video.

New York Energy Week is kicking off its third year! The energy industry event series has quickly become a must-attend gathering for businesses, government leaders, financial players, legal professionals, members of the environmental community and citizens interested in the exciting ways energy production, transportation and consumption are evolving.

New York finds itself on the forefront of this evolution due to a progressive regulatory approach dubbed Reforming Energy Vision – or REV – that is meant to support customer choice while fortifying the electrical grid in affordable and sustainable ways.

And there is no better place to learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with this historic energy system transition than at New York Energy Week, where local utilities and energy providers will discuss these issues and much more. Breaking Energy recently caught up with National Grid New York President Ken Daly in an email conversation that covers some of the company’s major initiatives and its role within NYEW. The first part of that conversation is included below.

National Grid an international electricity and gas company based in the UK and northeastern US. Subsidiary National Grid New York supplies gas and power to millions of residents across the state.

What are some of National Grid New York’s main objectives this year?

Because we deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 4 million customers across New York, National Grid is uniquely responsible for infrastructure investment, protecting our environment and improving energy efficiency. A few ways we’re bringing that commitment to life in our state are:

  • Community Commitment – recently hundreds of our employee volunteers participated in Earth Day events and our employees are involved in other activities throughout the year to make a difference in our communities.
  • Offering customers nearly $250 million in efficiency programs from 2012 through 2015.
  • Setting a goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
  • Partnering with NYSERDA and ChargePoint to install more than 65 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at restaurants, gyms, stores, colleges and other hosting sites. EV drivers used 75 megawatt-hours of electricity from our EV stations last year and prevented 69,000 pounds of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.
  • Supporting the Urban Future Lab to encourage new local businesses – especially those that are at the cutting edge of the innovation and technology needed to solve the region’s energy and environmental challenges. As a supporter of the Urban Future Lab, National Grid provides in-kind support to encourage the development of clean technology and energy entrepreneurs. Clean energy is a top priority for National Grid and part of our Connect21 initiative to drive economic growth, promote cleaner energy and advance innovative technologies to meet the growing energy needs of our communities.
  • Launching our Green Button initiative, providing customers with downloadable energy use data to help them actively manage and reduce energy consumption.

In Downstate NY, we are focused on operating and maintaining a safe and reliable gas distribution system, and connecting new customers to meet the growing demand for natural gas. Natural gas has become a fuel of choice, and is recognized, along with renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar, as an important resource for a clean energy future. In fact, the Long Island Association has cited natural gas expansion as one of its 15 major economic development priorities.

We are committing $3 billion in capital investment over the next five years in our gas infrastructure to modernize the network, ensure reliability, safety, and to connect customers to the energy they need to heat their homes and run their businesses. Ongoing gas infrastructure investments helped us meet the peak demand this winter and future investments will help us continue to deliver on our commitment to provide safe, reliable and economical service:

  • Brooklyn/Queens Interconnect (BQI) — Phase I was completed last year, connecting National Grid’s existing gas distribution systems in Brooklyn and Queens and was available for the first time this winter during the cold spell to provide a back-feed for both areas, ensuring adequate natural gas supplies for the Rockaway Peninsula. BQI Phase II is connecting with the Williams/Transco transmission line in Lower New York Bay, which was placed into service this month, providing the first new gas supply delivery point in decades.
  • Long Island Gas Investment Plan — We are beginning a two-year plan to replace aging pipes and expand the use of natural gas on Long Island and the Rockaway Peninsula, resulting in over 20,000 natural gas conversions, reducing emissions by 115,000 tons, which equates to taking over 300,000 cars off the road for a year, benefiting the communities with significant energy savings of over $75 million, and establishing hundreds of new jobs for the community. The Investment Plan will also accelerate the replacement of aging pipes from the current 50-mile requirement to 95 miles by 2016. Automatic Meter Reading Technology (AMR) is being rolled out to over 570,000 customers. AMR will help eliminate estimated reading by gathering customers’ readings remotely. The AMR program is scheduled for completion in 2015, resulting in monthly meter readings collected without needing to physically read each meter in person so that customers can enjoy greater privacy and convenience.
  • Queens Reliability Project – In December, National Grid began a project in northern Queens to modernize the natural gas system, which will help improve reliability and make much-needed gas available to support economic growth, enable more oil-to-gas conversions, displace approximately 71,000 barrels of oil per year, reduce CO2 emissions in the community by more than 9,000 tons per year which is equal to approximately 1,500 cars per year taken off the road. This initiative brings energy costs savings – an estimated $120 million over 15 years to customers in Queens – and supports customers’ choice to take advantage of enhancements in distributed generation and combined heat and power equipment.

What are the company’s goals for New York Energy Week?
National Grid is committed to investing in projects and initiatives as part of our Connect21 vision and working with our regulators on REV, the New York Public Service Commission’s proceeding on Reforming the Energy Vision, to meet customer needs and deliver a clean, sustainable energy future over the long term. As a sponsor and featured presenter of NY Energy Week, we look forward to hosting and participating in the discussion on Women in Power & Energy – The Opportunities in STEM Careers and continuing the dialogue with stakeholders and industry experts on America’s energy future.

What is the most exciting aspect and/or opportunity associated with NY’s changing energy system?

Last year, National Grid launched Connect21 – our plan to revolutionize every aspect of our infrastructure. Connect21 in many ways aligns with REV.  Both recognize that our energy networks lack resiliency and agility. Both acknowledge the need to reinvigorate the energy system to ensure safe, reliable, flexible service that integrates clean energy, harnesses innovative technologies, ensures data security and delivers new options for customers.

The changes called for in Connect21 and REV will be implemented, and evolve, over many years. But we’re not letting any grass grow under our feet. We’ve already begun a series of projects that will demonstrate how the re-formed electricity grid can optimize cleaner, more efficient technologies:

  • With Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam and others, we’re studying the feasibility of building an underground microgrid that would enable renewable energy to add resiliency and efficiency to the North Country electricity grid.
  • In Western New York, we’re partnering with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to build a self-sustaining microgrid that would combine grid-based electricity with solar power and an on-site CHP system to increase efficiency.

And we are partnering with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection on the Newtown Creek Renewable Gas Project (see video below) to demonstrate that renewable gas is another option to meet the clean energy needs of the future. The Newtown Creek Renewable Gas Project will be one of the first projects in the United States that directly injects renewable gas into a local distribution system for residential and commercial use. We are in the design and construction phase of a purification system to convert biogas from the wastewater treatment plant into renewable natural gas with an expected completion by the fall of 2016. With the expansion of the City’s organic waste collection program, the project has the potential to produce enough energy to heat approximately 5,200 homes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90,000 metric tons annually – the equivalent of removing nearly 19,000 cars from the road.

Breaking Energy is a New York Energy Week media partner and Managing Editor Jared Anderson is on the board of directors.