Con Ed looks to conserve Downtown

Temperatures lately have been closer to winter than spring, but Con Edison is already thinking about summer. To reduce the burden on increasingly taxed wires and transformers, Con Ed is launching a program to cut electricity demand. The program targets building owners in two parts of the city – the middle of Staten Island and Downtown between 23rd and Fulton Sts. from river to river.

“There’s been a lot of growth there,” Chris Olert, a Con Ed spokesperson, said of Lower Manhattan. “We can delay the installation of some new equipment if customers reduce their use.”

The booming residential population in Con Ed’s Canal network, which stretches from West St. to Broadway and Spring St. to Duane and Worth Sts., has led to a 40 percent increase in the number of electric customers between 2000 and 2007. During the same time period, the city as a whole saw an increase of only 4 percent.

Con Ed will help big users install energy-efficient lights and appliances, which do the double duty of reducing energy demand and reducing electric bills. Government subsidies will help businesses with the cost of going energy efficient.

“All of these things are designed to take pressure off the system when it’s really cooking, which is the summertime,” Olert said.

The goal of the program is to reduce electric consumption by 67 megawatts by 2012. A megawatt is the amount of energy it takes to power roughly 1,000 homes.

Substations on E. 13th St. and Leonard St. and at the Seaport currently serve the target area. Without the program, Con Ed would have to build a new substation or expand an existing one and would also need to add transformers and belowground cables — work that would tear up the streets. Below Fulton St., the rebuilt substation at 7 W.T.C. is adequately handling the demand.

The peak of Lower Manhattan’s energy use comes around 4 p.m. on the third or fourth day of a heat wave.

“On the first or second day, they say ‘Boy, it’s nice to have summer,’” Olert said. “By the third or fourth day, they put their air conditioners on arctic and start breeding penguins.”

— Julie Shapiro