Safety & Environment
We invested more than $3.23 billion in 2020 to fortify our electric, gas, and steam infrastructure. This investment underscores our commitment to provide energy to millions of customers efficiently and responsibly while protecting the environment and keeping people safe throughout our service area.
Con Edison continues to develop tools, techniques, and management strategies to improve safety, troubleshoot problems, and increase efficiency. In 2020, Electric Operations’ Distribution Engineering team worked to advance our thermal imaging capabilities by developing an industry-first thermal and visual borescope camera to help our crews quickly and safely inspect underground electric distribution manholes for high temperature anomalies that may indicate equipment repairs are required. This tool is the latest addition to the technology that Con Edison is deploying to help reduce the number of manhole events. Con Edison continues to work to reduce manhole events with multiple programs, including its industry recognized latched manhole technology and its vented manhole cover that reduce manhole displacements.
Con Edison’s underground networks are surveyed for contact voltage 12 times a year, using mobile detectors. In 2020, we found and eliminated 6,042 cases of contact voltage. Of those, 5,502 cases (91%) were on non-Con Edison equipment (streetlights, electric signs, and other structures). We performed 26,954 inspections of our underground system (manholes, service boxes, and transformer vaults).
O&R’s electric system testing is completed at least once every five years. In 2020, O&R found and eliminated 14 cases of contact voltage — 13 on company-owned equipment — and performed 45,004 inspections and 38,822 tests.
Con Edison continues to apply a public safety risk mitigation strategy that includes the elements of prevention, enhanced detection, and best in class response. Many of these initiatives are industry leading and on the cutting edge of technology.
The Company continues to significantly invest in its main replacement program to remove its cast iron and unprotected steel gas mains from its inventory. The Company has replaced 421 miles of such mains in the last five years. Along with other enhanced quality measures, the Company requires 100% independent inspections of all plastic joints installed to ensure quality and compliance. Furthermore, the Company has a robust and proactive damage prevention program that promotes awareness in the contractor community and utilizes predictive analytics to ensure additional contractor oversight before street work is performed near our critical facilities. The year 2020 saw the lowest level of contractor damages to our system in our recorded history.
Con Edison performs monthly gas leak surveys of our 4,300 mile gas distribution system, far in excess of the traditional annual survey performed in the industry. The frequency of these surveys allows us to detect leaks on our system as they occur, so that repair can be scheduled in a timely manner. Additionally, the Company has developed a first-of-its-kind natural gas detector that is integrated with our advanced metering infrastructure. These detectors automatically notify our Gas Emergency Control Center of potential public gas leak emergencies, which Con Edison and the fire department then respond to and investigate. We piloted these detectors in 2018, began full deployment in 2020, and will be installing them in every customer’s home in the next five years. Furthermore, Con Edison has a comprehensive, multichannel, and multilingual campaign to educate customers and the public at large—an estimated 10 million people across New York City and Westchester County—about gas safety and the urgency of reporting gas leaks. We reach customers primarily through direct mailings, youth outreach efforts, advertising, digital initiatives (such as email campaigns, conEd.com and social media), and community events. We also continued our successful media campaign, Smell Gas, Act Fast, featuring videos and social media posts that inform customers on what to do if they smell gas. The videos are in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean.
Con Edison emergency response performance is best-in-class. In 2020, the Company responded to gas leaks across the system within 30 minutes, 98% of the time, the best performance in the Company’s history. Furthermore, our close relationship with the Fire Department of New York and Westchester County Emergency Services has ensured that every event is responded to with the utmost urgency and is mitigated quickly. In 2019, Con Edison worked with Westchester County Department of Emergency Services to build a new hands-on gas leak emergency training facility for local fire departments to aid in their ability to effectively and safely respond to natural gas leaks.
Orange & Rockland
We have continued our focus on enhancing public safety by modernizing our gas delivery system. Investments to replace leak-prone pipe, primarily unprotected steel and Aldyl gas mains, have resulted in fewer incoming, outside leaks. In 2020, we replaced more than 20 miles of gas main.
We quickly respond to gas odor and carbon monoxide calls, and in 2020 we achieved a historical best response rate—responding to more than 93% of calls in 30 minutes.
By providing education to and direct oversight of those performing excavation work near our gas system, our performance continues to be strong relative to third party damages to our gas system. We continue to perform gas leak patrols of our distribution system and have kept the number of open leaks low throughout the year.
We continued to perform internal corrosion inspections and offered residential methane detectors free of charge to interested customers. We continued to strategically deploy AMI-enabled, natural gas detectors in the territory.
O&R has a comprehensive campaign to educate customers and the public at large about gas safety and the urgency of reporting gas leaks. We reach customers primarily through direct mailings, advertising, digital initiatives, and community events.
Con Edison continues to implement a “prevent, detect, and respond” risk mitigation strategy with a deliberate focus on public safety. Many of these initiatives are industry leading and on the cutting edge of technology.
For the “prevent” part of the strategy, the Company continues significant investments in its steam system assessment and main inspection programs that use advanced data analytics to identify areas where specific infrastructure investment is needed. Starting in 2020, the Company completed the first generation of their assessment model and has inspected approximately 3,000 feet of steam main. The Company also recently completed the construction of a full-scale computational fluid dynamics flow model known as the Kongsberg model. This model simulates the flow of steam and condensate through the piping system using actual field conditions reported from various devices. This model is the first of its kind in the industry and can alert our Engineering/Operations teams to potential conditions that might increase the risk of a water hammer event. Besides these preventive efforts, the Company also has a robust monthly customer seminar program that educates our customers on how to properly and safely utilize our steam service in their buildings.
Con Edison’s “detect” risk mitigation strategy includes performing weekly/bi-weekly (depending on the season) visual surveys of the 105-mile steam distribution system. The Company also developed and is enhancing our remote monitoring system. The sensors associated with this system have the capability to detect defective steam traps, excessive water levels within our steam manholes, as well as the performance of drainage pumps. This system automatically notifies our Steam Troubleshoot Dispatch Center of a potential public safety emergency that requires immediate attention. Additional improvements to the system are currently in the research and development stages with planned pilots scheduled for 2021.
Con Edison’s “respond” risk mitigation strategy focuses on rapid response, repair, and partnership with external agencies. In 2021, the Company responded to vapor conditions across the system within 45 minutes, 95.1% of the time. Steam Operations has consistently met this critical response time goal. These performances are also attributed to the close relationship between Con Edison and many of the first responders, including the Fire Department of New York City and the Department of Environmental Protection. Overall, the Company conducted twenty-one (21) training sessions for public and emergency officials on how to properly respond to steam incidents. The Company also met with various agencies throughout the year to familiarize them with the steam system, hazard recognition methods, and the Company’s internal emergency response procedures. The Company also conducted drills to test its emergency response process/procedure for steam safety incidents as well as potential oil spill events.