Keith Rooney Recap

On December 4, Keith Rooney of National Grid spoke to the members of LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) on December 4 to discuss the latest developments in energy production.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Rooney said, 800 employees worked from home. Some of these control center workers were sequestered up to eight weeks, where they lived on the property. They slept in trucks and on cots, working around the clock. Field operators kept working constantly “since Day One.”

In support of the local community, National Grid collected over $1 million to help their most vulnerable customers. The company funded over 30 food banks on Long Island and provided PPE and medical supplies to local police and fire departments. They also provided food for the frontline workers. Other organizations they helped included Island harvest, Hope House Ministries, United Way and SCCC, among others.

National Grid also froze shutoffs for their customers as part of its “Operation National Grid Cares.” The company, seeing that businesses and residents were suffering financially as a result of the lockdowns, continued to provide service to those customers, regardless of their ability to pay. The company also gave out turkeys to more than 150 customers in need in Riverhead. “I’ve been here 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

The Williams Project is “dead.” Mr. Rooney explained the project would have served National Grid’s service territory and been connected to a line in Flatbush, Brooklyn, bringing natural gas to Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The project took three years and, after the necessary environmental permits couldn’t be obtained, the states of New York and New Jersey stepped in. Now that the project has been denied, National Grid has demand response programs in place, incentivizing larger natural gas consumers to reduce their peak loads during the coldest parts of the day.

National Grid is working with the lab at SUNY-Stony Brook on creating a hydroblending transmission system that supplies renewable energy to the facility. “That’s exciting stuff because that’s going to reduce gas usage,” Mr. Rooney said.

The future of energy is clean technology, Mr. Rooney said, adding that National Grid is doing its part. Over the past 10 years, the company has invested money into wind, solar, battery storage and electricity. In addition, it has incentivized its employees to “go green” by providing them with $5,000 toward the purchase of an electric vehicle. “You have to adapt and overcome right now,” he said. “We have to change to become a clean energy company.”

Mr. Rooney said the company has a policy team in place at Metrotech in Brooklyn; its members look how to be compliant with the state’s environmental policies. “We are driving the change and doing what we can,” he said. The company has also invested in Geronimo, a solar energy company. Mr. Rooney said National Grid wants to develop wind and solar farms on Long Island, but, because of the lack of available land, it will have to look to upstate New York.

One of the LIMBA members suggested switching to geothermal energy since it puts out fewer emissions than natural gas and fossil fuels. While Mr. Rooney agreed, he said the issue is making it scalable and affordable.

When asked if National Grid has software programs in place to distribute natural gas, Mr. Rooney said the company uses its software systems for crisis management. It used software to create a robocall system; if there is an outage of 25 houses or more in the same area, customers will receive a call that there is a gas outage and an estimated amount of time until service resumes. From its control centers, employees can use remote shutoff valves on the southern coast of Long Island in the event of a major storm or natural disaster.

Another project that Mr. Rooney mentioned was the one at the Newtown Transfer Station. He said National Grid has been working with the city on this project and is expected to go live soon. The project entails taking human waste and converting it into renewable gas to power 80 homes locally. National Grid is also putting renewable gas out to transmission in Staten Island and is currently working on another renewable gas project on eastern Long Island.