Energy As the Core of New York City
Craig S. Ivey
Consolidated Edison Company of New York (CECONY)
There are five critical components to the livable cities of the future: public safety, reliability, affordability, reduced environmental impact, and smarter and more secure facilities. Cities must also prepare for both a growing demand for power and the effects of increasingly severe weather patterns that threaten the grid. This became dramatically clear with Superstorm Sandy, which hit the New York City region three days after this symposium, on October 29, 2012.1 Utilities, urban planners, climate experts, government leaders, and regulators must all collaborate to determine the best approaches to fortify the city’s infrastructure and protect residents and businesses from future threats. New York City’s largest energy provider is taking steps to address challenges and meet needs in order to ensure delivery of these critical components.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Con Edison (Con Ed) and its 14,000 employees support one of the most active and densely populated areas in the country. New York City and Westchester County are home to 9 million people, and more than 50 million
1 This paper was adapted for this publication to reflect the storm’s impact and Con Edison’s response.
FIGURE 1 Energy Provision in New York City and Environs
visitors come to the city each year, based on 2011 data. The company serves 3.3 million electric customers and 1.1 million gas customers (Figure 1). The intense energy demand of the area requires a reliable energy infrastructure, and Con Ed substations are designed to safely meet the community’s energy needs.
Sandy’s relentless winds and unprecedented storm surge caused damage across the region unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Catastrophic flooding and corrosive salt water destroyed electrical equipment and downed trees ravaged our overhead system, making repairs difficult and time consuming. Now and in the future, thoughtful, forward-thinking construction will help keep our systems reliable for the “new normal” that we must design and prepare for in the wake of Sandy.
Our investment in smart grid technologies and other innovations allow greater flexibility and reliability during extreme weather. For example, for the past seven years Con Ed has implemented a policy requiring any new business in a flood zone to either install submersible electrical equipment or locate its electrical equipment at higher elevations.
Efforts to minimize construction in the streets are challenging and costly because of numerous underground structures that compete for limited space
FIGURE 2 Construction in NYC is expensive and challenging.
to accommodate growing demands not only for electricity but also for the distribution of communications, water, and natural gas (Figure 2).
In addition, demand is at peak—above 12,000 megawatts (MW)—for only 36 hours per year (Figure 3). Peak demand occurs when many users across an energy system simultaneously increase their energy use—for example, in the afternoon or evening of a day of extreme or record-breaking heat, when both homes and offices turn up the air conditioning and households also turn on televisions, computers, washers and dryers, and other appliances. In the absence of storage mechanisms energy must be produced when it is demanded, so the infrastructure as a whole must be ready to meet peak demand even if it is idle for the balance of the year.
Smart grids enable two-way communication between our facilities and our customers’ equipment (e.g., smart meters, distributed generators, plug-in vehicles), and switches enhance flexibility in the network, thus increasing reliability (Figure 4). Smart grid technology, which relies on underground auto-loop and wireless-controlled switches, reduces the likelihood and severity of service disruption caused by a network event.
During Sandy, Con Ed was able to use remote sensors on the distribution system and remotely operated switches to reduce the damage to the system and speed up repairs. New sensors allowed control room operators to see
FIGURE 3 Utilities must invest to support a very short peak period. CECONY = Consolidated Edison Company of New York.
real-time power flows on feeders and, in conjunction with remotely operated switches, made it possible to reinstate service more quickly.
Con Ed was also able to sectionalize overhead lines ahead of the storm to improve both outage restoration times and public safety. New underground switches designed by company engineers have been installed, allowing greater flexibility and reliability during weather events and enhancing the ability both to monitor underground transformers, network protectors, and other equipment and to isolate problems. In addition, recently installed flood detectors in low-lying substations alert operators when flood waters reach critical levels.
There has also been a shift in sources of energy generation. With development of the Marcellus Shale formation, some coal plants have been retired and new gas plants have been established. Natural gas is a much cleaner source of energy than coal and oil. Furthermore, in 2010 renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power exceeded the amount of oil-based energy in the region.
For a city to be livable, safety is critically important, as are reliability, risk reduction, and affordability. As urban sites continue to grow, reduced environmental impacts, smarter systems, and more secure infrastructure are also paramount to the future of the cities and their inhabitants all over the world.
Con Ed is committed to working with other stakeholders to determine the most cost-effective ways to protect our systems and the public from future natural disasters and to prepare for the demands of future growth without sacrificing reliability.