America’s Natural Gas Industry Will be Essential to Achieve a Net-Zero Emissions Future

News Release February 08, 2022

Washington, D.C. - At a media event today, American Gas Association (AGA) Chair, and Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Southern Company Gas, Kim Greene, joined AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert to release a bold vision for the future along with a seminal analysis detailing how America’s natural gas, natural gas utilities and delivery infrastructure will be essential to meeting our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, including achieving net-zero emissions.

Building on the industry’s bold Climate Change Position Statement from January 2020, this new study “Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities,” presents a national-level approach that leverages the unique advantages of gas technologies and distribution infrastructure. Several modeled pathways are analyzed to underscore the range of scenarios and technology opportunities available as the nation, regions, states and communities develop and implement ambitious emissions reductions plans. The pair also outlined how the industry has contributed to a cleaner environment through innovation and emissions reductions while delivering value to 187 million Americans every day.

“Our industry is proud that we have made significant progress on the climate change commitments made two years ago,” said Greene. “We knew then what we know now, climate change is a defining challenge across the globe and this industry and natural gas are part of the solution. That’s why we’re investing $95 million every day in infrastructure upgrades. Gas infrastructure will continue to unlock innovative solutions to meet our environmental goals—we are living up to our commitments, and we have no plans on slowing down.”

Greene and Harbert detailed the industry’s efforts and progress to date, including:

  • Reduction in methane emissions of 69% since 1990.
  • Continued improvements in gas efficiency have reduced residential emissions per customer by 47% since 1971. 
  • Improvements in natural gas efficiency and the growth of renewable energy have led to energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hitting 30-year lows.
  • Industry launched a $125 million research initiative to drive innovation and deploy next generation technologies including renewable natural gas and hydrogen.
  • There are nearly 500 RNG facilities in operation or planned in North America today: 200 in operation today the U.S., 155 under construction, and 103 more planned across the United States and Canada.
  • The affordability of natural gas, saving homeowners more than $1,000 each year, is adding one new customer every minute and 21,000 new business customers each year.
  • The industry added nearly 900,000 new residential customers in the U.S. between 2019-2020, the largest increase since 2006.

“Policymakers at every level continue to wrestle with the questions of how we get to net-zero emissions, yet the natural gas industry is advancing practical solutions and making investments that are enabling our country’s energy and environmental goals today and into the future,” said Greene. “This study demonstrates how natural gas and gas infrastructure are not only valuable, but essential for building pathways to achieve our ambitious environmental goals. The most practical, realistic way to achieve a sustainable future where energy is clean, as well as safe, reliable and affordable, is to ensure it includes natural gas and the infrastructure that transports it.”

“Americans want affordable, reliable energy and a clean environment, and this industry will be essential to meeting and exceeding those expectations.” said Harbert. “We are delivering cleaner energy every day and ensuring customers have affordable energy they can rely on, especially when storms hit and temperatures drop. These are the tenets on which this industry was built and no matter the day, we will continue to drive to do more.”

Key findings in the Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities Study include:

  • Pathways that utilize natural gas and the vast utility delivery infrastructure offer opportunities to incorporate renewable and low-carbon gases, provide optionality for stakeholders, help minimize customer impacts, maintain high reliability, improve overall energy system resilience, and accelerate emissions reductions.
  • The ability of natural gas infrastructure to store and transport large amounts of energy to meet seasonal and peak day energy use represents an important and valuable resource that needs to be considered when building pathways to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals.
  • Continued utilization of natural gas and the vast utility delivery infrastructure can increase the likelihood of successfully reaching net-zero targets while minimizing customer impacts.
  • The U.S. can achieve significant emissions reductions by accelerating the use of tools available today, including high-efficiency natural gas applications, renewable gases, and methane reduction technologies, and enhanced energy efficiency initiatives.
  • Large amounts of renewable and low-carbon electricity and gases, and negative emissions technologies, will be required to meet an economy-wide 2050 net-zero target.
  • Supportive policies and regulatory approaches will be essential for natural gas utilities to achieve net-zero emissions.

Harbert and Greene went on to detail the industry’s seven areas of focus as it works to enable and advance net-zero solutions: energy efficiency and improved energy management, methane mitigation technologies and strategies, advanced gas end-use technologies, renewable and low-carbon fuels, negative emissions technologies, infrastructure modernization and workforce development.

Harbert continued: “To meet our nation’s environmental goals, we must ensure we align rules and regulations with investment opportunities to accelerate innovative technologies and fuels. All sectors of the economy must play a role, and all emissions reduction options should be on the table to help ensure the broad availability of cost-effective and flexible solutions. We are keeping our eyes focused on the future, building on our progress to propel our nation to a cleaner energy future.”

The full study and accompanying resources can be accessed HERE.

The American Gas Association, founded in 1918, represents more than 200 local energy companies that deliver clean natural gas throughout the United States. There are more than 76 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers in the U.S., of which 95 percent — more than 73 million customers — receive their gas from AGA members. Today, natural gas meets more than thirty percent of the United States' energy needs.