The US Natural Gas Industry's Commitment to a Cleaner Energy Future
If this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that enlightened policy and strategic coordination between government and the private sector are essential to finding solutions to complex problems. The American Gas Association is a proud sponsor of National Clean Energy Week, where governors, senators, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and industry come together to champion the need for continued investments in innovation and technology that pave the way towards a cleaner tomorrow.
The commitment on behalf of America’s natural gas utilities to be part of the solution to the complex challenge of climate change has never been stronger. We have made progress and will achieve more by working together with other sectors of the energy industry and through partnerships with farmers, small businesses and community advocates.
Energy is the backbone of our economy. We take the responsibility seriously and deliver it every minute of every day - safely, affordably and cleanly. We know we can deliver successful clean energy solutions that will make for a stronger economy and a healthier environment while still protecting the pocketbooks of all our customers. These ideal outcomes take an all-hands-on-deck approach and the natural gas industry is proud to continue to play a leadership role in developing solutions.
Our nation has an abundance of clean natural gas, which makes it affordable and reliable, two necessities as we continue to navigate through this pandemic and strive for the desperately needed economic recovery. Every day, 180 million Americans use natural gas in their homes – which are now their offices, schools, and gyms – and we are adding a customer every minute.
The expanded role of natural gas in America’s energy mix is the single largest factor in power sector emissions reductions reaching 25-year lows. It’s also allowing households using natural gas to save an average of $879 per year compared to homes using only electricity. During these challenging times, every dollar helps.
One of the most effective means to reduce emissions is through energy efficiency and our industry is doing its part. In 2018, natural gas utilities invested $3.8 million daily in efficiency programs in the U.S. and Canada. These investments helped customers reduce their carbon footprints, offsetting over 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from 2012 to 2018 – the equivalent of removing 2.9 million cars off the road for a year.
In that time, carbon dioxide emissions from the average natural gas home have declined 1.2 percent per year. Further, investments by utilities nationwide to upgrade pipelines has resulted in a 73 percent reduction in methane emissions since 1990.
These are good developments that should be celebrated, but more can and should be done. Our mission to deliver cleaner energy involves both more innovation and greater transparency. The importance of continued research and development into technologies and energy sources of the future cannot be overstated.
One area of significant potential is through greater deployment of high-value sources of energy like renewable natural gas and hydrogen. Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a carbon-neutral energy produced from methane captured from farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. In addition to helping these industries reduce their own environmental impact, RNG is a usable energy that we are putting into our pipeline infrastructure and delivering to customers.
A recent assessment shows RNG has the potential to play a substantial role in lowering emissions from natural gas (as much as 95 percent in the residential sector) with costs that are competitive with other emissions reduction pathways. Extended research and investment into RNG will enable it to flow from production points to customers all over America through already existing infrastructure, minimizing costs for consumers and the need to build expensive new systems. Our 2.6 million miles of pipelines can also be used to deliver hydrogen and other energy sources of the future.
We are also committed to transparently report on our emissions to our regulators, customers and stakeholders. Through the Natural Gas Sustainability Initiative, a joint effort with electric utilities, pipelines and producers, we have created industry-wide environmental, social, governance (ESG) reporting metrics. Natural gas utilities remain an excellent choice for investors and we will provide the data and metrics they need to show our commitment to progress on all ESG fronts.
We’re at a defining moment on the path to cleaner energy. As we look toward 2021 and beyond, the conversations and ideas set forth at National Clean Energy Week should be the framework to enact smart, bipartisan policies that make a difference. America’s natural gas industry is eager to continue this collaboration on the quest to cleaner energy for all.
Karen Harbert is President and CEO of the American Gas Association (AGA).