Con Edison’s future of innovation echoes its past

William Tesi, Fortunate Gufino and Joseph Venezia, from transportation, stand by the new Chevy Volt Electric Hybrid in Astoria, which will become part of the Con Edison fleet
Photo courtesy of Con Edison

You might say Con Edison’s vision of the future is very cool and very hot. Which is to say, it’s one primarily of renewables, sourced reliably and delivered safely. By encouraging drivers to buy EVs and developers to adopt heat pumps in buildings, among other things, the company expects to play a major role partnering with the city and the state to meet their climate goals, among the most forward looking in the country. 

For example, anticipating a future surge in EV ownership, Con Edison supports 100 public curbside chargers and nearly 3,000 charge points in privately owned garages and buildings, with a goal of 19,000 by 2025.

The company’s Reliable Clean City project, an $800 million transmission upgrade, will boost electric deliveries in New York City’s outer boroughs. 

Its Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program — incentivizing building owners and developers to install LED lamps, sensor controls, and geothermal heat pumps — underlines the company’s commitment to build an electric grid that delivers 100% clean energy by 2040. 

By supporting the conversion of at least 150,000 buildings to electric heating systems by 2030, the company aims to transition away from fossil fuels to a net-zero economy by 2050. 

Photo courtesy of Con Edison

Such foresight and innovation is ingrained in the founding fabric of Con Edison, this year celebrating its 200th anniversary. “For 200 years, the talented people at Con Edison have provided us with the reliable energy service that makes it possible for New York to be a 24/7 world-class destination,” said Steven Rubenstein, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York.

Indeed, Con Edison ranks among the largest U.S. energy companies, supplying energy to 10 million people in the New York City region and serving as an anchor for the local economy. The company employs more than 12,000 people and is the longest continuously listed company on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Con Edison was founded in 1823 as a gas lighting company and went on to establish the model for what became the modern electric utility. Among many innovations, the company built the country’s first commercial central power plant, the Pearl Street Station in lower Manhattan, which delivered electric service to nearby customers.

Among those early electric customers was The New York Times, which wrote at the time that its new electric lighting service was “a hundred times steadier” than gas.

At the same time, the New York Steam Company began servicing lower Manhattan. By the 1890s, electric service had spread to other parts of the city, along with the first electric elevators and escalators. Industry and retail outlets lit up, as did the Statue of Liberty, nightlife was created, and the city became safer after dark. 

Photo courtesy of Con Edison

Such historic innovation launched the Consolidated Edison Co. of New York — it took its current name in 1936 when it incorporated and combined the NY Steam Company and the New York Edison Company — as an unmatched leader in providing electric, gas, and steam to its customers. 

And it began thinking about energy efficiency decades before it became standard. In 1970, with its Save-a-Watt program, Con Edison encouraged customers to conserve, a shift from utilities’ traditional marketing.

What was initially 59 customers is now 3.5 million; the first 15 miles of underground cable now numbers 93,000, enough to wrap around the Earth 3.6 times. And with a commitment to clean and sustainable energy, watch as the number of charge points and sustainable buildings increase too.

“I believe the most exciting chapter is the one unfolding now,” said Tim Cawley, Con Edison’s chairman and chief executive. “Our commitment to lead the clean energy transition will benefit our customers and all New Yorkers.”

For more information check out the Con Edison website.