When Con Edison issued a moratorium on natural gas service for new Westchester customers beginning March 15, 2019, it could have been viewed as a major loss for Westchester businesses. But, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Department of Public Service (DPS), and New York Power Authority (NYPA) jumped into action, turning the moratorium into an opportunity with a Westchester Clean Energy Action Plan.
Under the Action Plan, $250 million has been invested to enable Westchester businesses to provide clean energy alternatives that will reduce the demand for natural gas from existing customers and allow Con Edison to accommodate new energy customers. The Action Plan’s solution is resulting in a win-win — an unexpected new opportunity for local communities, businesses, and residents to become more energy efficient with clean energy alternatives that will bring short- and long-term benefits. The long-term goal is to have 70 percent carbon-free energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040.
Among the companies leading the charge in helping local businesses establish energy saving solutions are D.P. Wolff Inc., providing design, installation, and maintenance of commercial HVAC, plumbing, and mechanical systems for 25 years; H2M architects + engineers, a full-service architectural and engineering firm founded in 1933; Lippolis Electric, Inc., which has been providing a full range of electric services for more than 35 years; and Robison, a full-service family-run home comfort company one year from celebrating its centennial. All four businesses are now helping their clients identify and implement new carbon-free energy sources.
Viewing the moratorium as both an obstacle and an opportunity, John DiMiceli, Managing Partner of D.P. Wolff, believes the result will widen the field of vision in the selection of potential energy sources for projects. “It removes the option of considering natural gas as a potential source of fuel,” he says. Developers must rethink the utilization of natural gas as both a short-term requirement and in long-term planning. The focus is on electrical and solar-generated sources of heating and air conditioning and exciting new technology makes these options viable.”
As Paul Lippolis, Vice President of Energy-Efficiency for Lippolis Electric, sees it, “Most people would prefer to have their choice of heating options at their home or business, however ConEd’s moratorium will ensure that existing and new customers who truly have a need for natural gas can access it by removing the option for those who can use more efficient methods. Although this may add up-front costs and present challenges for some new homebuyers, overall this will further the conversation of energy efficiency in Westchester.”
From the perspective of H2M architects + engineers, customers want natural gas because it costs less, but alternative clean energy sources will result in more effective savings for the entire life cycle of a facility. “The silver lining is that state agencies like NYSERDA have stepped up with incentives to help customers reduce or offset the demand for natural gas,” explains Phil Lanza, Senior Project Engineer. “Through the Clean Energy Plan, incentives can help offset the additional upfront cost of incorporating energy efficient systems in new construction and help retrofit existing buildings with efficiency measures.”
“Ultimately, homeowners want to have carbon-free power without installing solar panels on their roof or a windmill in their backyard or on their property,” notes David Singer, Robison’s Co-President and Chief Executive Officer of Robison Energy. “Customers who choose Robison as their energy service company will remain ConEd customers, but Robison will deliver 100 percent green hydro-generated electricity to New York’s power grid on their behalf, enabling them to directly contribute to lowering the country’s carbon emissions.”
“Our process with our clients is simple: we listen, observe, collect data, research, and then provide solutions,” DiMiceli explains. “Working with our clients, we develop a comprehensive plan with achievable realistic milestones and establish a matrix to chart meaningful progress. Once the strategy is implemented, we constantly reevaluate our new findings to match them to the model and modify as necessary.”
According to Lippolis,“In helping customers increase their energy efficiency through lighting retrofits or replacements, we offer an initial complimentary survey to assess the client’s current lighting, then generate a proposal recommending the most efficient lighting upgrade available, including installation costs, energy saving calculations, and the estimated ConEd incentive or rebate. We then complete a turn-key installation and handle any paperwork required for the incentives. In addition to energy savings, customers experience maintenance savings due to the longer-life LED lighting and a higher quality of light.”
H2M helps its clients evaluate clean energy opportunities rather than rely on oil or other fossil fuels that impact the environment. “We want to help them take advantage of the rebates and incentives in moving toward cleaner energy sources, such as solar, geothermal, and wind,” says Phil Schade, Senior VP and Market Director for Energy. “We audit the existing facility, present multiple sustainability options, and help choose the best approach that takes them through the whole life cycle.”
Singer explains Robison’s approach: “Customers are demanding clean energy and we’re fulfilling the need by providing access to these green renewable sources. Customers who partner with Robison for their energy services will continue to pay one bill through Con Edison as they usually do. We will also still service their equipment and maintain their indoor air quality and other aspects of a comfortable home — we’re a total comfort company.”
All four companies envision long-term benefits following the moratorium.
DiMiceli: “Our community has dedicated time and attention to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and increased focus on utilizing more energy efficient technologies. Everyone from business owners, municipalities, schools, homeowners, developers, etc. are making a firm commitment to evaluate their energy operating systems and work toward alternative practical innovative replacements and designs to reduce their impact on our environment — a great principle whose time has finally been recognized and brought to the forefront.”
Lippolis: “I believe long-term, we will see an increase in all energy-efficient products and services. If customers are forced to use more efficient heating measures than natural gas service, like heat pumps, they will also be more willing to explore other energy efficient methods after experiencing the benefits. At the very least, the moratorium will reduce the strain on ConEd’s infrastructure and ensure that the critical customers who absolutely need to operate using natural gas can do so without any shortages.”
Lanza: “As clean energy solutions become less expensive, we see clean energy on the horizon. We hope businesses will use the moratorium as an opportunity to examine their energy efficiency and consider other clean energy options sooner rather than later and get ahead of the curve.” Schade adds: “New York State has very aggressive clean energy goals. The incentives will help clients keep costs low while staying in step with the state’s goals and moving in the right direction.”
Singer: “The long-term results of these efforts will be a reduction of each individual’s carbon footprint and an immeasurable contribution to the environment by lowering the country’s carbon emissions. Currently, companies are being incented, but our goal is zero carbon footprint with 100 percent renewable power. It’s not where carbon footprints are being reduced, but that they are being reduced period. If everyone did this, it would be a different world.”
D.P. Wolff Inc.
143 Bedford Rd
H2M architects + engineers
2700 Westchester Ave, Suite 415
Lippolis Electric, Inc.
25 Seventh St, 2nd fl
1 Gateway Plaza
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