NY electric companies collaborate on statewide promotion of heat pumps

Six New York electric companies are collaborating with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and an approved list of program contractors to electrify and decarbonize buildings and homes statewide through increasing the use of heat pumps.

New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG), Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E), National Grid, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), and Orange & Rockland Utilities are involved in the New York State (NYS) Clean Heat Program, a NYSERDA initiative that promotes the adoption of heat pump technologies to replace fossil fuel space and water heating.

During a Jan. 31 webinar hosted by the global consulting and technology services company ICF, representatives from several utilities discussed their strategies and plans associated with the NYS Clean Heat Program.

For example, a rep for NYSEG and RG&E provided an overview of the NYS Clean Heat Program, which offers rebates and financing options to help customers choose heat pumps to lower their bills, use cleaner energy, and stay comfortable year-round. 

Rebates also may be combined with federal tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act when customers switch to heat pumps and other clean, efficient solutions.

“It’s a one-stop shop for heat pump incentives,” said Nicole Williams, manager of the Clean Heat Program at NYSEG and RG&E, subsidiary companies of Avangrid Inc. 

Williams said NYSEG and RG&E offer incentives to residential and commercial natural gas and electricity customers who install qualifying heat pump equipment through NYSERDA participating contractors. The program is also available to eligible customers who build a new home and install eligible equipment via such program contractors.

These rebates range from $400 to more than $3,000 depending on the equipment that is chosen by a residential or commercial customer. The utilities also work with a network of program-approved contractors to help streamline the rebate process by taking the rebate amount directly off the price of the heat pump, said Williams.

Because the building sector is the largest emissions source in New York, accounting for 32 percent of emissions, Williams said that NYSEG and RG&E are supporting the expanded use of heat pumps to help reduce emissions associated with heating buildings.

In fact, Williams said that NYSEG and RG&E last year helped customers adopt more than 4,000 new energy-efficient heat pumps across their service areas.

For its segment of the webinar, National Grid discussed how it adjusted marketing and communications strategies to effectively engage customers and contractors in the NYS Clean Heat Program.

Laura Baez, lead marketer of energy efficiency at National Grid, said the company is driving adoption of the program through marketing and engagement focused on the company’s overall energy vision.

“We are committed to playing a leading role in enabling and accelerating the transition to a clean energy future, while ensuring all customers and communities continue to have affordable and reliable options to heat their homes and run their businesses,” said Baez. 

While NYSERDA handles statewide general awareness and education about the NYS Clean Energy Program, Baez said that National Grid collaborates by also providing programmatic awareness marketing. National Grid and ICF are also jointly involved in retail activation and contractor engagement, which are all aligned to provide clear communications to customers, she added. 

Customer insights also help National Grid target audience messaging. “We started out with a really small budget so we had to narrow the targeting scope,” said Baez.

Such strong program designs are vital to drive the adoption of heat pump technologies and should include comprehensive marketing and communications to help the program be successful, said webinar moderator Matt Dugan, vice president of program implementation at ICF.

Other considerations include a well-trained contractor network to perform the number of conversions necessary; electric rates designed to protect customers from experiencing higher costs compared to the operating costs of their traditional fossil fuel systems; transmission and distribution infrastructure capable of accommodating high levels of electrification; and collaboration with program management, T&D, rates, engineering, and regulatory departments, among others.

“It is critical that there are strong collaborations to break down silos,” Dugan said.

Con Ed — which owns Orange & Rockland Utilities — explored how it evaluated multiple innovative rate structures to help drive prolonged adoption and satisfaction with heat pump technologies in homes and businesses.

Con Ed carefully selected financing providers to offer customer options tailored to their needs and budget. And with little to no upfront installation costs, customers can get state-of-the-art clean heat technology on a fixed price negotiated directly with a dedicated financing provider, according to Alice Frank, a senior specialist at Con Ed.

Frank discussed Con Ed’s innovative pricing pilot (IPP) and select pricing plan (SPP). The IPP is an electric rate pilot first launched in April 2019 that includes seven demand-based delivery rates for 395,000 recruited mass market customers using both an opt-in and a default methodology. 

The SPP is an optional, demand-based rate offered with the residential heat pump community in mind, but any residential or religious customer with automated meter reading is eligible, said Frank.

Con Ed is gathering data from both the IPP and SPP on items such as customer acceptance and bill impacts. “We’re keeping track of how customers are responding to rates,” she said.

The IPP final wave ends in May 2025, added Frank, while an analysis on its SPP was submitted to Con Ed rate case parties for review on Dec. 31. There’s also a rate comparison tool coming out that’s currently in the beginning stages to allow customers to compare their bills on any rate, she said.

Kim Riley

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