Grid Ready: Powering NYC's All-Electric Buildings

Grid ReadySolving climate change will require drastic carbon reductions. For buildings, that means shifting from fossil-fuel heating systems to all-electric ones. ​​

About 67 percent of New York City’s building emissions come from burning fossil fuels on-site, primarily for heating and hot water. There’s growing consensus that electrifying buildings is necessary, but less certainty about when buildings should be electrified and whether our grid can support this large-scale transformation. 

Our latest report, Grid Ready: Powering NYC's All-Electric Buildings, sheds light on how power is delivered to NYC, examines how heat pumps will change electricity demand in buildings and shows how electrification can be rolled out to carefully manage increasing demand. We used energy models to predict power demands based on actual monthly energy use and found that almost half the citywide building area could be electrified before NYC’s peak power demand shifts from summer to winter. This means that we can accommodate near term electrification, with room to grow.  

Key takeaways

  • Building electrification poses no immediate risk to the grid, and NYC’s winter power demand could grow by 42 percent before exceeding summer demand;
  • Almost every network area in NYC has at least 100MW of capacity to electrify heating and hot water. That’s enough room to convert about 300 multifamily buildings in each area before we see any winter peaks;
  • Residential communities in outer boroughs will likely be the first to see winter demand exceed summer since low-rise buildings are easier to electrify but have large heat and hot water loads;
  • Energy efficiency and demand flexibility upgrades are highly effective at shaving peak demand, and if they’re integrated with heat pumps then almost half of NYC’s building area could electrify before the winter peak crosses the summer peak.

You can also explore our interactive map and examine various electrification scenarios and their effect on peak power demand throughout the city.

Grid Ready Mapping Tool

And make sure to join us on January 27 for an inside look at the report's findings.

Room to Grow

On average, NYC's peak power demand is over 40% higher in summer than winter. And colder temperatures allow the grid to carry more power, offering extra capacity to electrify heating in buildings.

Data: NYISO Actual Load 2010-2019

Room to Grow

Citywide building electrification will eventually shift NYC’s peak power demand from summer to winter while significantly raising the peak. But it won’t happen all at once, and so far, the pace of electrification has been glacial. The good news is that utilities and their customers have plenty of time to adapt to these new peaks. 

Many other energy upgrades can keep demand increases manageable.

Electrified heat and hot water everywhere will mean the heaviest grid congestion is likely to occur in January mornings rather than July afternoons. These loads will have to be served efficiently and shifted to other times to keep that peak manageable. Affordable energy efficiency and demand flexibility measures—like roof insulation, large hot water tanks and smart thermostats—are highly effective at shaving peak demand and should be used in tandem with heat pumps.

Projected power demand: Typical prewar low-rise multifamily building

Prewar multifamily low-rise buildings use very little electricity today, so their power demands will expand substantially. Efficiency and flexibility measures will be crucial for this type of building and would cut their electrified peak power demand in half.

Data: EnergyPlus 8760 Models: 90th percentile day

Projected Power Demand

Heat pump installations should be tracked citywide, so planners can anticipate changes in NYC’s peak power demand.

A winter peak will likely occur once 30 to 40 percent of citywide building area has been electrified. That isn’t anticipated to happen statewide until after 2035, but parts of the city will flip their peak season sooner. This will likely occur first in residential areas of the outer boroughs, especially in areas with many low-rise residential buildings. Tracking electrification would also highlight areas where infrastructure upgrades and governmental programs may be needed to ensure the proper resources are in place to keep pace with electrification.

Projected Citywide Power Demand

Scope

This research explored how building power demand will change as heating and hot water systems are converted to heat pumps. We focused only on buildings both for simplicity and because they use most of NYC’s energy today. Their electrification is likely to have the biggest influence on future power demand.

This is the first step in understanding community infrastructure needs, but there will be upgrades needed block by block that we cannot yet predict. NYC’s local distribution grid currently is reliable and has a process for gradual upgrades and long-term planning to meet evolving system needs. Our findings are not a substitute for a detailed distribution upgrade plan that considers the electrification of cooking, transportation and other factors to identify capacity needs in specific locations on Con Edison’s network system.


Want to learn more about Grid Ready and what it means for New York City? Join us on January 27 for an inside look at the report's findings.

 

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