Identifying pathways to Net Zero maximizing GHG reductions with greatest affordability
Landmark study reveals that natural gas and the company’s gas infrastructure are foundational for reaching a clean energy future
ATLANTA – March 25, 2022 – A new study analyzing Southern Company Gas details pathways for the company’s four natural gas distribution companies to reach net-zero direct greenhouse gas emissions, including methane emissions, while using its existing safe and reliable infrastructure. The analysis demonstrates that Southern Company Gas expects to be able to fully support its parent Southern Company’s goal to reach enterprise-wide, net-zero direct GHG emissions by 2050 in addition to providing benefits to its customers and communities.
Conducted by consulting firm ICF, the comprehensive study’s data reveals that the Southern Company Gas operating companies, in addition to continuing to reduce their operational GHG emissions, also could offset direct methane emissions with renewable natural gas projects providing local supply and economic development opportunities in each state. For example, in partnership with agricultural interests, such as dairy farmers or food processors, on-site facilities can convert animal, food and agricultural waste into a useful fuel for our customers and avoid the release of methane emissions into the environment.
The study also analyzed four different potential approaches – or pathways – for reducing emissions associated with Southern Company Gas residential and commercial customers’ natural gas use in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia. Two of the scenarios were based on increased building efficiency, high efficiency gas heating technology and the use of RNG. The third scenario focused on mandatory 100% electrification, and the last scenario used a hybrid natural gas/electric approach for building heating.
Comparing the costs and performance associated with each pathway, the analysis determined that the pathway incorporating natural gas efficiency technologies and RNG is lower cost and produces more GHG reductions for residential and commercial customers than the mandatory 100% electrification pathway. Moreover, the study exhibits that energy costs can remain affordable by leveraging existing natural gas networks with new and energy-efficient technologies and renewable gas.
“This research shows that natural gas and our modern delivery infrastructure are foundational to achieving our net zero goals,” said Kim Greene, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company Gas. “The identified natural gas-focused pathways include a balanced approach addressing how our utility operations and gas supply practices can be leveraged to achieve important climate goals, and that natural gas solutions provide a practical and realistic pathway that is affordable for our customers. With supportive regulations and policies, we can continue providing the clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy our 4.3 million customers depend on and deserve while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
According to the study, the high-efficiency natural gas technologies pathway estimated almost 25% more GHG reductions for Southern Company Gas’ residential and commercial customers at almost half the cost of the mandatory electrification pathway – in terms of direct and indirect equipment and energy expenses. This is because the natural gas-focused pathway makes use of our modern natural gas energy system already in place.
“We are committed to finding sustainable clean energy solutions without burdening our customers,” continued Greene. “This study shows our natural gas system has a foundational role to play in this, alongside the use of renewable solutions, power generation storage, negative carbon initiatives and the electrification of transportation and other targeted applications.”
The solutions and pathways proposed will be customized for each Southern Company Gas subsidiary, and the company will continue to work with state regulators, key policy makers and stakeholder groups to design workable plans for each utility.
The study’s pathway for mitigating emissions from Southern Company Gas operations expands upon ongoing efforts, including:
- Continual infrastructure improvements
- Advanced leak detection and repair
- Strategic renewable natural gas integration
- Expanded alternative fuels for fleet vehicles
- Enhanced measurement and reporting
The analysis shows the value of complementing these initiatives with methane capture offsets and research and development focused on modern technologies and carbon-neutral fuels.
“Reaching net zero by 2050 will require close coordination between utilities and local, state and federal regulators and legislators to ensure that any solutions implemented are done so in a timely way that meets the best interests of our customers. We look forward to working with the decision makers across the states where we operate as we seek to leverage the opportunities outlined today for the betterment of our customers, our communities and our environment,” said Greene.
To learn more about the study and how Southern Company Gas is working to transform the future of clean energy, visit southerncompanygas.com/environment.
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.3 million natural gas customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states with more than 600,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other businesses include investments in interstate pipelines and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.