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NEW YORK, June 1 (Reuters) - Shifting more U.S. energy production to renewable sources such as wind and solar power is doable but will require greater use of natural gas and overcoming opposition to building pipelines, a senior executive of a U.S. utility said on Thursday.
Consolidated Edison Inc no longer defaults to the traditional utility solution of building more infrastructure to meet growing demand for power, said Craig Ivey, president of the company unit serving New York City and nearby suburbs.
Con Edison believes in clean, low-carbon energy, but a balance must be found to satisfy environmental goals, he told an audience of New York real estate brokers.
Boosting the production of wind, solar and other alternative sources to meet a goal of generating half of New York's energy needs by 2030 cannot be done without natural gas, Ivey said.
"It is simply not possible to provide all the energy we need for our residents and businesses with wind, solar, battery storage and other alternative methods," Ivey said in a speech to the Real Estate Board of New York.
Con Edison would need tens of billions of dollars in transmission and distribution system upgrades beyond the levels needed to meet the state's Clean Energy Standard, Ivey said.
The company has reduced its carbon footprint since 2005 by 48 percent and in the past six years, 6,600 large buildings in New York City have converted to natural gas.
A debate has simmered in New York and New England about whether more pipelines are needed to enable natural gas to be the bridge fuel from coal and oil-fired power plants to cleaner renewable sources like wind and solar.
Environmentalists and New York state have taken the position that new pipelines, like Williams Cos Inc's proposed Constitution gas pipe from Pennsylvania to New York, are not needed. They would invest more in renewables and energy efficiency.
The gas industry argues that more plants are needed to replace retiring coal and nuclear plants, such as Indian Point just north of New York City, before more wind and solar projects can be built. Indian Point will close in 2020 and 2021. (Reporting by Herbert Lash; Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Daniel Bases and Peter Cooney)