The combustion of fossil fuels at our steam and cogeneration facilities result in the generation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, principally, carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas; nitrogen oxide (NOX), the principal pollutant attributed to the formation of smog; and sulfur dioxide (SO2), a contributor to acid rain. Emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are regulated under the U.S. Clean Air Act, and are covered in the Environmental Performance portion of this report. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is a greenhouse gas used in some pieces of the electric distribution system that can be released into the atmosphere through fugitive emissions. Fugitive methane (CH4) is also a greenhouse gas that is accounted for through our natural gas distribution system.
A team of local scientists working under the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) compiled a 2010 report to identify the effect of climate change on the New York metropolitan region. According to the report, climate change is likely to cause more-frequent and longer-lasting heat waves across our service territory, as well as increasingly intense and severe storms. Climate change may cause droughts, flooding, and food shortages in other parts of the world. To achieve real reductions of harmful greenhouse gases, climate change must be an important priority for every country, company, and individual. While we await federal climate change regulations that may be enacted in the future, we believe that it is our corporate responsibility to do our part to reduce global emissions today.
We will set our sights on the energy used in buildings, which contributes to approximately 80 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions. Con Edison’s corporate sustainability strategy aims to curb these emissions by setting goals to:
We are committed to curbing our company’s greenhouse gas emissions, and have already reduced our emissions by 45 percent since 2005 – surpassing our goal to reduce 40 percent of 2005 levels. We are also doing more to help our customers shrink their own carbon footprints through our energy efficiency programs, environmental-stewardship and conservation efforts, and providing customers the option to choose cleaner power sources.
Con Edison has been active for nearly a decade in a broad range of initiatives aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. We participate in shaping new environmental policies at all levels of government, and support the continued development of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
In 2008, Con Edison became a founding reporter of The Climate Registry. The Registry helps organizations calculate and report greenhouse gas emissions, and has developed standardized reporting and third-party verification protocols for creating an inventory of emissions. Con Edison has voluntarily submitted to third-party verification of its greenhouse gas emissions under the registry’s reporting protocols for three consecutive years. The most recent verification, completed in 2012 for emissions occurring in 2011, was verified under the registry’s Electric Power Sector Protocol, which requires disclosure of all direct and indirect sources at company locations. All emissions reports are available on the registry’s website, theclimateregistry.org.
Since 2009, Con Edison has been subject to carbon dioxide emissions regulations established by New York State under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The initiative, a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, establishes a decreasing cap on carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the generation of electricity to a level 10 percent below the Initiative’s baseline by 2018. Under the initiative, affected electric generators are required to obtain one emission allowance for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The allowances are available through quarterly auctions or a secondary market. Con Edison currently purchases allowances for its East River cogeneration plant and was an active participant in the comprehensive program review that took place throughout 2012.
The company is also required to report direct emissions through the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting system. In 2012, the company reported emissions from steam and cogeneration stations where fuel is combusted to produce steam and/or electric energy. The company also reported the emissions resulting from the combustion of natural gas delivered to its customers. The company’s reported emissions are accessible through the EPA’s greenhouse gas data publication tool.
Con Edison’s utility companies and affiliates are generally restricted by state regulators from owning large energy generation assets within New York State. However, as an energy service company, Con Edison Solutions is allowed to provide customers in New York State with green power through contracted supply options. The company also provides energy-efficiency and roof-mounted solar power technologies for residential, commercial, institutional, and government customers.
In 2012, Con Edison Development (CED) tripled its portfolio of solar generation assets bringing on nearly 120MW of new generation. This significant growth made it the fifth largest solar project owner in North America.
Along with developing new projects throughout Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, in 2012 CED acquired four solar developments totaling 144MW situated in California. These projects provide enough power to serve about 30,000 homes. Each year the solar generation is expected to avoid nearly 230,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of removing nearly 45,000 cars from the road every year for the life of the projects. The power and environmental attributes are being sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company under 25-year power purchase agreements.
The development and sale of renewable energy will help to offset greenhouse gas emissions from traditional fossil generation sources in these markets. For more information on these projects, see the Clean Energy Development sections of this report.