New Yorkers at risk of freezing thanks to City Council bid to kill off vital National Grid upgrade

September 28, 2022

Bryan Grimaldi | September 20, 2022

This week the New York Public Service Commission is holding public hearings on National Grid’s proposal to add two state-of-the-art, high-efficiency vaporizers to the Greenpoint Energy Center. This will allow us to meet existing customer demand for heat on the coldest days of the year while reducing the facility’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Some progressive City Council members, however, are playing politics with the project, even introducing a resolution urging the commission to deny the permit. If their efforts succeed, the most at-risk New Yorkers and the city’s small-business owners will pay the price.

National Grid is dedicated to meeting the threat of climate change. In line with the benchmarks set out in the Paris agreement and the Science Based Targets initiative, as well as New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, we have committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and in April we released our Fossil Free Vision to fully eliminate fossil fuels from our US gas and electric systems.

But the clean-energy transition can’t happen overnight. While we move toward a fossil-free future, we must continue providing safe, reliable and affordable service to the New Yorkers who rely on us to heat their homes, cook their meals and power their businesses.

Vaporizers are critical to ensuring heat on the coldest days of the year. During the summer and other low-demand periods, National Grid liquifies and stores natural gas. Then, when temperatures drop, we use vaporizers to warm up this stored gas so it can be distributed to customers throughout the city. This does not happen often — as few as two or three days each year — but when it does, it’s essential to keeping New Yorkers warm. There is no Plan B.

Everyone deserves reliable heat during winter’s coldest days, but it’s especially important for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Older people, those with chronic health conditions and families suffer the most from service interruptions. The proposed vaporizers are an important backup resource to ensure all our customers stay safe and warm year-round.

Besides ensuring affordable heat, the new vaporizers operate more efficiently than existing equipment, meaning they can provide the same vital service with fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. Of course, the ultimate goal remains to eliminate fossil gas from our heating systems, but this is an important step in the right direction.

Contrary to false claims this project will extend New York’s reliance on fossil fuels and create health and environmental risks for surrounding communities, independent assessments have concluded there are no other viable, short-term solutions to meet peak demand in coming winters — and the emissions will be lower than those today.

Indeed, it’s these publicity-grabbing efforts to stop approval of this vital infrastructure that put our customers — council’s constituents — at risk. Until renewable sources of energy scale to replace energy delivered by today’s systems, projects like this are not only necessary but critical to New Yorkers’ safety.

LNG vaporizers are like seatbelts. Most of the time, they’re just a precaution. But when there’s an emergency, they’re vitally important. Right now, New York is at greater risk of an emergency if we do not upgrade the Greenpoint Energy Center to meet rising demand for heat.

Fortunately, there’s a solution that will allow us to meet peak demand, even on the coldest days, while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and advancing our ultimate goal of fossil-free heat. Elected officials opposing this project seek to score political points at the expense of their constituents — and environmental advocates are trying to set energy policy 140 characters at a time.

ne would hope our elected leaders would support reasonable energy policy based on facts and what’s practical for customers, not the idealism of the few who aren’t responsible for delivering safe, reliable and affordable energy to anyone.

Bryan Grimaldi is National Grid’s vice president of corporate affairs in New York.