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New York Mega-Utility Triples Energy Efficiency Budget to $1.5 Billion

New York state mega-utility Consolidated Edison is tripling its budget for energy efficiency to US$1.5 billion through 2025, in an aggressive program expansion that will include incentives for customers to install ground- and air-source heat pumps to reduce their dependence on natural gas.

ConEd Chair and CEO John McAvoy announced the change during a virtual annual meeting last week. “I believe one of the keys to rebuilding our communities and boosting the economy is maintaining our focus on clean energy,” he said in a statement.

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“McAvoy also told shareholders that letting utilities own large-scale solar and wind farms would help New York City and State achieve their climate goals,” Utility Dive reports. State law calls for New York to hit a 70% renewable energy target by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050.

To get there, “energy efficiency is one of the most effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while saving money,” said Daniel Bresette, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). “And heat pump technology, in particular, has improved considerably over the years.”

McAvoy pledged to continue ConEd’s incentives for electric vehicle adoption, after the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS) recommended a requirement for the state’s investor-owned utilities to include EV charging infrastructure in their capital spending budget, Utility Dive says. A January 13 white paper from DPS staff called for a state-wide “make-ready program” to provide EV charging incentives.

Natural Resources Defense Council clean vehicles and fuels advocate Kathy Harris said utilities and public service commissions have taken a “good first step” toward wider EV adoption, but public awareness and load management are still at issue. “Utilities need to consider how to integrate electric vehicles into their grids,” she explained, with rate designs that encourage off-peak charging. They can also boost public awareness by constantly communicating with customers on EVs and the availability of charging stations.

“Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles is in the interest of everyone, including utilities,” Bresette stressed, adding that his institute is working on “on-bill financing programs” in other parts of the country. “Basically, EVs are four-wheeled batteries and can serve as storage to help utilities manage supply and demand.”