Natural Gas Fuels the Future of Energy
We’ve examined multiple ways to reach net zero, and what we’ve found, like others who have closely examined these challenges, is the most practical pathways use natural gas, in partnership with decarbonized electricity solutions.
At Southern Company Gas, sustainability is not a new concept. For decades, we have worked with our regulators to diligently invest in our infrastructure, which has reduced our environmental footprint while also maintaining safety, reliability and affordability for the approximately 4.4 million customers who depend on our services every day.
Recently, some colleagues and I had the opportunity to meet with employees from across our territory to reflect on how far we’ve come and discuss where we go from here. As we looked back on our work, I reflected on the fact that we’ve made great strides in improving the sustainability of our operations and enabling others to make changes.
Over two decades, Southern Company Gas reduced annual methane emissions from its natural gas distribution system by about 50%, even as the system grew by more than 20%. Our system currently operates at over 99.8% efficiency. But we are not stopping there. Our employees have identified net zero pathways that enable significant emissions reductions all while leveraging our existing infrastructure and allowing our customers to continue using their existing appliances.
Many people don’t think of the gas utility when discussing climate solutions. Some people are in fact saying the opposite, that the key is to stop using natural gas altogether. However, the gas utility industry has been working to collaborate on clean energy solutions. We’ve examined multiple ways to reach net zero, and what we’ve found, like others who have closely examined these challenges, is the most practical pathways use natural gas, in partnership with decarbonized electricity solutions.
Picture it: You live in a rural area, and your home’s energy is provided by both highly efficient electric and gas technologies. Your neighbor down the road has a sustainable farm. Farms generate waste, and that waste creates methane, a greenhouse gas. Instead of letting that methane enter the atmosphere, your neighbor captures that methane through a renewable natural gas facility and puts it into a natural gas pipeline. Added bonus: this local farmer now has a new revenue stream. Your gas utility partners with you to help you use your natural gas more efficiently and to provide you with natural gas that is more sustainably sourced from RNG facilities like your neighbor’s, and from traditional gas producers who have certified that they have reduced methane emissions, too. Farms are not the only source that can provide renewable gas for energy use. Technology is being used today to capture methane from landfills, water processing plants and other industries. And RNG is an energy source that is there when you need it. RNG can be matched to a customer’s energy needs day or night 365 days a year.*
The exciting fact is that this technology is available right now. And across the four states we serve at Southern Company Gas, our people are working to make these solutions available to our customers and to drive further innovation.
The energy transition will not happen in isolation. We need collaboration across a diverse group of stakeholders to ensure a positive outcome. But I know by working together, we can continue to make progress, both in our industry and beyond. The gas utility can play a key role in finding real tangible climate solutions that improve where we live, work and play on the path to a net zero future.