Influx Of Energy Users in NY Boroughs Brings Grid into Spotlight

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Influx of Energy Users to Brooklyn and Queens Brings the Grid into the Spotlight

Gita Subramony for Zondits, July 28, 2014

In the few years since the 2010 census, estimates have shown population growth in NYC, especially in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. From 2010 to 2013, Brooklyn’s population grew by 3.5% and Queens’ population grew by 2.9%. Increasingly, New Yorkers are opting to live in these boroughs, as Manhattan housing prices are sky-high and the outer boroughs still offer the promise of (slightly) cheaper rent. Long Island City in Queens already has a number of new housing developments, and more towers are in the works. Brooklyn, in particular, is experiencing a building boom in the residential sector with multiple large towers going up from Williamsburg to Downtown Brooklyn.

With the increase in population in Brooklyn and Queens come greater energy usage and demand. Grid reliability and resilience is definitely a concern city-wide as the population grows (and also as we experience more extreme weather events). In July of 2006, during a heat wave, Queens experienced an outage that left nearly 174,000 New Yorkers without power. The outage lasted 8 days for many customers, and it resulted in $188 million in damages. The incident brought attention to NYC’s grid infrastructure and raises questions on whether the outer boroughs can handle the influx of residents.

To address these concerns, Con Edison is taking a closer look at Brooklyn and Queens with their Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program (BQDM) in light of recent growth in these boroughs. The utility also hopes to avoid building a new $1 billion substation, preferring to invest in customer-side demand management. Currently, Con Edison has a request for information out for demand-side management technologies for the areas served by the Brownsville No. 1 and Brownsville No. 2 substations (serving the networks of Richmond Hill, Crown Heights, and Ridgewood). These networks have been projected to be overloaded as population growth occurs and demand increases in the borderlands between Brooklyn and Queens.

This new program will differ from Con Edison’s and NYSERDA’s current Demand Management Program, which largely focuses on the large commercial sector (i.e., Manhattan office towers) for permanent peak load reduction. Brooklyn and Queens are mostly residential, with different peak hours, and since the buildings typically have smaller loads, the program will have to reach more buildings in order to achieve significant peak reductions (instead of relying on a few extremely large projects). The BQDM program aims to be operational by summer of 2018.