The Trend Toward Solar Energy with Allan Drury

October 12, 2022

Green Is Good Symbol

From the Green Is Good Archives

Originally aired on January 12, 2015

Play/Pause Download

Allan Drury joined Con Edison in May 2009 as a Media Relations spokesman. Working in New York City, the media capital of the world, he speaks daily with reporters from local and national newspapers, television and radio stations, trade magazines and digital publications on behalf of a company that provides electric, gas and steam to 3.4 million customers. Con Edison has been cited for its environmental commitment by Newsweek magazine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and other organizations. Drury’s areas of coverage include distributed generation, energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, regulatory matters and safety.

John Shegerian: Get the latest impact episodes right now in your inbox each week. Subscribe by entering your email at to make sure you never miss an interview. This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully-integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit

John: Hi. This is John Shegerian. I never could have imagined when we started the Green is Good radio show back in 2006 that it would grow into a big podcast called the Green is Good Podcast. And now, we’ve evolved that podcast to the Impact Podcast, which is more inclusive and more diverse than ever before. But we did look back recently at some of our timeless Green is Good interviews and decided to share some of them with you now. So, enjoy one of our great Green is Good episodes from our archives. And next week, I’ll be back with a fresh and new episode of the Impact Podcast. Thanks again for listening. I’m grateful to all of you. This is John Shegerian.

John: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. Today, we’re so honored to have with us Allan Dury. He’s the spokesperson for Con Edison. Welcome to Green is Good, Allan.

Allan Dury: Thanks for having me. Glad to be in.

John: Hey, happy to have you. Before we get talking about all the green things that Con Edison is up to, Allan, can you share a little bit about your journey, leading up to this position at Con Edison? What got you interested in sustainability in the environment and doing something really good that helps the world be a better place?

Allan: I was a newspaper reporter for a lot of years. My last job was here in this area as a business reporter, and wrote a lot about energy and clean energy and so forth. So, I guess I always had the interest in that I came here to Con Edison in May of 2009 and haven’t had a bad day since.

John: That’s wonderful. So now, basically, you’re the person that when people need answers about what Con Edison is doing with regards to all their greening efforts and environmental efforts, you’re the person they come to. We’re so excited to have you on today. Can you talk to us a little bit about the history? Now, I’m a native New Yorker, so I grew up, and Con Edison was such an iconic brand. But we have listeners not only around the United States but around the world, Allan. Can you share a little bit of the Con Edison history and its richness and what it’s done for the City of New York and its citizens since its inception?

Allan: Yeah. I, first of all, should make it clear that I’m not “the person” that provides information. I’m one of eight colleagues that do a great job. It kind of started as a gas company back in the 1800s, and then Thomas Edison built the first generating station down on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan in the early 1880s. What’s brought up was a lot of electric gas companies throughout the years. And that’s where the name Consolidated Edison comes from. These companies were consolidated into one company, and that’s the company we have today. We provide electricity, gas, and steam in the five boroughs of New York City and Westchester County, Westchester County being the county just north of New York City. We have 3.4 million electric customers. We have 1.1 million gas customers in Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester, and a portion of Queens. So, there are no gas customers in Staten Island or Brooklyn, and only in part of Queens. Now, we have 1,800 steam customers as well. Those are in Manhattan. And those steam customers, they run from The Battery, which is at the southern tip of Manhattan up to 96th Street. And though there’s not a lot of them, they tend to be big customers, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, United States Rockefeller Center, some of the big hospitals. Steam is a big part of the business, too.

John: Wow. So many forms of energy that you guys provide to [crosstalk] keep New York–

Allan: Yeah. We provide that energy in the nation’s largest metropolitan area. It’s the most densely populated city. New York, of course, is the world’s financial capital, and it’s home to some of the world’s greatest universities and hospitals and research labs. It truly is a 24/7 city, so that means our business has to be 24/7. It’s quite a responsibility to keep power flowing reliably. We’re confident and we’re proud that we think we do that well.

John: And, Allan, since energy is so much part of our discussions now, every time you turn on the news or pick up a newspaper or listen to politicians speak, whether it’s about climate change or energy conservation or energy preservation or making better energy grids, can you share a little bit about the evolution of Con Edison and its thought process and its involvement with the environment, some stuff that maybe we’re not thinking of that Con Edison has been doing and making part of their culture and DNA for previous years and what they’re doing now with regards to the environment?

Allan: Yeah. I think Con Edison has been[?] for years before its time when it comes to conservation and saving energy as far back as the early 1970s, I guess. There’s a program called Save A Lot, encouraging energy efficiency. At that time, the company was in the generation business. We generated electricity, whereas now, we’re more or less out of the generation business, just transmission and distribution, very little generation. Some folks might be surprised that a utility place has such great emphasis on protecting the environment, but we’re actually very proud of our environmental stewardship. Newsweek magazine named us the greenest utility in the United States and one of the greenest companies overall. We’ve actually reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 43% since 2005, so that’s pretty impressive. We recycled about 90% of our non-hazardous waste. Just last year, we completed gas additions to steam stations. That was a big project. The stations served Manhattan. Those additions avoid about 140,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year. We have Green Dot fleet of vehicles. We have vehicles that run on biodiesel fuel, and we’re expanding a number of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles in our fleet. Currently, about half our vehicle fleet is running on some form of alternative fuel of high-efficiency energy. We’ve also stepped up our efforts to replace priority piping on our gas system, Elite Pro piping, that helps reduce methane emissions. We spend an average of $250 million a year for three years. That’s 2014, 2015, and 2016, replacing cast iron and unprotected steel name[?]. We replaced an average of 65 miles of priority pipe segments in these three years. That’s nearly doubled from just a few years ago. And, of course, we work with customers to help them use less energy.

John: Well, I want to talk about that. I just want to give a shout-out for our listeners just joining us. We’ve got Allan Dury on. He’s one of the spokespeople from Con Edison, and we’re talking about energy conservation and sustainability. For those who want to learn more about all the great work that Con Edison does, please go to I’m on your site right now. First of all, I got to tell you something. It is actually very impressive and very green site. There’s a link here that you could download the sustainability report for Con Ed. There’s so many great factoids and information here. It’s really, really impressive. Let’s go back to what you just were raising when I diverted. Talk about, Allan, please, how does Con Ed help customers use less energy?

Allan: We always say that we’re a bit unusual as a business because we encourage our customers to use less, not more–

John: –of what you’re selling. Less of what you’re selling!

Allan: Yeah, less of our products and services. Not only do we encourage them to do that, but we try to help them do that. And we’ll even pay them to make energy-efficient upgrades. We have programs for residential customers, small business customers [crosstalk]

John: Explain some of them. Explain some of the better programs that are out there, the more popular ones with residents and with businesses.

Allan: Okay. We’ve had a lot of success the last few Summers with smart thermostats that allow customers to control their air conditioning setting remotely. If a customer gets to work, realizes that they didn’t shut down their air conditioning – they don’t want it running all day while they’re at work because that would be wasteful – they can shut it down. We’ve paid out about $190 million in incentives to more than 217,000 customers who have made upgrades. The upgrades can be lighting, HVAC systems, just a whole range of programs that we have. We have [crosstalk] customer, you know?

John: Which is the most popular for businesses? Is it the lighting program for businesses for energy efficiency?

Allan: I would say it’s more popular. They’re all pretty popular across the board. There’s something there for everybody. And the great thing about our programs is that you don’t have to be an engineer or an energy expert to take advantage of them. Something as simple as changing lighting, it’s easy to do and it will save you energy and money.

Subscribe For The Latest Impact Updates

Subscribe to get the latest Impact episodes delivered right to your inbox each week!
Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you or share your information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

John: You know, Allan, at the top of the show, you mentioned the amazing coverage that Con Edison does throughout the burrows and throughout Manhattan. I’m a Queens boy. Can you share a little bit about what’s going on with regards to your push into Brooklyn and Queens right now, and what’s your future plans there?

Allan: Yeah, sure. We’re seeing a lot of economic growth in portions of Brooklyn and Queens. That growth is both residential and commercial. Naturally, that spawns a greater need for energy. We think that that need will reach capacity within a few years. The areas we’re talking about here are North, Central, and Eastern Brooklyn, and Southwest Queens. I think it’s the best way to characterize it. Traditionally, the utility solution here, of course, would be to build more stuff, more power lines, install transformers, a substation. What we’re trying to do is work with customers in these neighborhoods on alternative ways to provide them with the lighting, and the heating, and the cooling they need but with less energy consumption. We think that if we do this successfully, we can defer the construction of a billion-dollar substation, and that’s good across for customers because our operations are funded by ratepayers. So if we can defer the construction of a billion-dollar substation, that’s deferring that cost on behalf of our ratepayers. We’re offering add-ons[?] to our existing incentive programs to help customers manage the energy usage in these areas. If this program is successful, we’ll use it in other areas where the demand for electricity is growing.

John: That makes a lot of sense. Talk a little bit– with amazing and the great growth and explosion of exciting brands like Solar City, can you share a little bit about what’s Con Edison’s approach towards the trend of using more solar energy?

Allan: Yeah. Again, some people might see this as a bit of a mystery company that makes money by bringing electricity to people’s homes and businesses, encouraging customers to see whether its worthwhile for them to generate their own electricity [crosstalk] solar panels on their roofs. That’s what we’ve done and continued to do. Customers have responded. Our customers have completed about 3,500 solo projects in New York City in Westchester County, and those projects produce about 55 megawatts of clean renewable energy. Now, to a layperson, how much is 55 megawatts? That may not speak to a layperson, but that’s a lot of energy. I can tell you it’s more than enough to meet the peak needs of one World Trade Center, 30 Rock, the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, New York Stock Exchange, Yankee Stadium, and Citi Field, which is where the Mets play. So it’s a lot of energy. With the incentives and the tax breaks that are available, and of course, the savings that you can get in electricity, a customer can get a pretty quick payback on an investment in a solar array. And we’ve even placed solar panels on our headquarters building here in Manhattan. We have 200 high-efficiency panels that produce about 40 kilowatts of quick renewable power. Con Edison Development, which is a competitive energy business, is now the sixth-largest solar owner in the United States. We’ve come long ways with solar energy and our customers have, too.

John: That is awesome. There are also regulations requiring buildings in New York to switch over from oil to natural gas. Can you explain how that transition’s going and the switchover’s going, and what role does Con Edison play in that transition?

Allan: Yeah. We have a big role there. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I believe it was 2011, the city passed regulations that require buildings to get off number 6 fuel oil by 2015 and number 4 fuel oil by 2030. Those are two very heavy, dirty fuel oils, a lot of emissions. So, the past three years or so, we’ve converted more than 2,200 large New York City buildings from number 4 and 6 oil. What’s interesting here is that customers are also converting from what’s called number 2 fuel oil even though that’s not required by the regulation. We’ve converted more than 1,400 large New York City buildings from number 2 fuel oil. And these customers are converting because natural gas is less expensive than oil, and the US Energy Information Administration projects that it’s going to remain less expensive for the foreseeable future. We think our new gas customers have eliminated about 150 tons a year of fine particulate matter from the atmosphere. So, that’s been a very good program, as well.

John: How long does that process take to get buildings to make that switchover? How complicated is that? Obviously, I’m not a technically-oriented person when it comes to major infrastructural transitions like that, but how complicated is it to take a large commercial building in midtown Manhattan and switch it from oil to gas?

Allan: Obviously, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of engineering, a lot of construction. It’s a significant job, but we’ve had a lot of success with it. We continue convertible [inaudible]. It will surpass last year’s numbers in 2014 for conversions, so it’s going along quite well.

John: Something that I read about a lot in the media is this trend towards white and green roofs. Can you share with our listeners, what does the white and green roofs really mean? And what is Con Edison’s thoughts to the effectiveness of the trend towards white and green roofs?

Allan: We’ve got a lead supporter of the City of New York’s CoolRoofs program for several years now. In fact, we have white roofs on many of our own facilities, substations and other buildings. In fact, the headquarters building that I’m in right now in Manhattan has white roofs, white membranes on many of the roofs. We also have a green roof and an experimental white roof on our training facility out in Long Island City, Queens. That training facility is a place where employees go for classroom learning and also field well learning as well. We’ve had scientists from Columbia University conduct research on the green roof, the white roof, and the traditional dark roof on that facility, and they’ve made some important findings. They’ve concluded that the white and green roofs keep the building cooler during the summer, [crosstalk] heat, and that cuts the air conditioning costs. You don’t need to crank your air conditioning as much to cool the building if you have these CoolRoofs.

John: Is there a percentage of cost that it cuts? Is it 10? Is it 20? Do we have some sort of hard evidence?

Allan: [crosstalk] a lot of other variables. [crosstalk] put out a report which I can get to you that lays some of that out. The whole concept is, you may remember when you were a kid, your mother or your father may have told you, “Hey, it’s a hot and sunny day out. Don’t wear a dark shirt [inaudible] the playground or go down to play basketball. It’ll absorb heat.” So, same concept here. What these traditionally dark roofs do is they collect heat during the day. And at night, they radiate it back into the atmosphere. So, that’s why the urban area temperatures are often warmer than suburban area temperatures, significantly warmer at night. Because if you think about what you have in the city, you have a lot of asphalt roadway and a lot of dark roofs, so they’re radiating heat back into the atmosphere at night. We have less of that out in the suburbs. If you can [crosstalk] whiten some of your roofs, then you’re not going to have that radiation of heat taking place at night.

John: When we were kids in New York, the black roofs, we used to call them Tar Beach.

Allan: Yeah. Right.

John: Right? It was the Tar Beach. But now, it’s white and green. Does the green have the same effect as the white, or is the white the real standard right now and green is part of it a little bit?

Allan: They’re both very effective. Green roofs, obviously, with a lot of plantings are going to take more maintenance, maintaining the plantings. It’s probably more expensive to maintain the plantings, but they’re both effective. And the other thing that a green roof will do is it will hold water. If you a get big rainstorm, they’ll hold water and that can help prevent what’s called combined sewage overflow. A lot of the water will stay up in that roof rather than go down into the sewer system and cause these nasty overflows. That’s the other nice function that green roofs have.

John: Right. You know, we’re down to the last minute and a half or so, Allan. Can you share future thought… the trends that Con Edison is going to be involved with on the future of energy efficiency? What does the future hold for the years ahead for your great company?

Allan: Well, I think it’s clear utility customers want and need more choices. They want distributed generation, energy efficiency, demand response, clean energy options, they want more resiliency, and the ability to be powered back up again quickly after a storm. They want the ability to better manage their energy usage. The New York State Public Service Commission, which is our regulator, recognizes this thought of getting called reforming energy vision. It could change the way electricity is delivered and consumed in the State in recognition of these trends.

John: Well, thank you so much, Allan Dury. We really appreciate your time today. To learn more about all the great things that Con Edison is doing when it comes to energy efficiency that can help our environment, please go to Allan, thank you for shedding light on the important issues that Con Edison is working on to make the world a better place. You are truly living proof that green is good.

John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and Impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to