Unlocking Opportunity Through Coordinated Innovation

The following is the seventh part of a seven-part series to dive deeper into the seven key takeaways from the Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities report. If you are interested in the full report, you can learn more at https://www.aga.org/netzero. 

In February 2022, the American Gas Association (AGA) released a bold vision for the future that details how America’s natural gas, natural gas utilities and delivery infrastructure are essential to meeting our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Building on the industry’s ambitious Climate Change Position Statement from January 2020, 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 emissions reduction plans. The study details eight key findings including:

With increased Research, Development, and Deployment (RD&D) and coordination with the electric sector, there are greater opportunities to unlock more decarbonization measures that leverage the gas system.

The example pathways to net-zero emissions laid out in this study include a balance of existing, early-stage, and emerging technologies at different stages of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D). Ensuring energy reliability with a growing population and thus increased demand means we can’t wait for potentially optimal solutions in the future – we must implement the best technologies available to us today while we further develop these innovative technologies to even greater heights of efficiency.

While U.S. policymakers adopt aggressive emissions reduction goals, the natural gas industry is well-positioned to further reduce emissions while keeping energy service affordable and reliable. Many aspects of the natural gas distribution system can offer tremendous advantages for decarbonization initiatives, and there are several promising areas where RD&D support will be critical like gas heat pumps, hydrogen blending, and thermal gasification.

As these technologies mature, the move to a low-carbon energy system calls for a collaborative approach between the electric and natural gas systems, leveraging the relative strengths of each to meet peak demand. For example, when the electrical distribution system failed during Winter Storm Uri, the reliability of the gas local distribution systems kept homes warm, and people safe.

In their Net Zero by 2050 report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated that almost half of CO2 emissions reductions must come from technologies that are “currently at the demonstration or prototype phase. Major innovation efforts must take place this decade to bring these new technologies to market on time.”

AGA’s philosophy on this issue is simple: we should make the most of the tools available to us today, while investing in tomorrow’s solutions. And the industry is doing just that.

The Inflation Reduction Act provided a down payment to accelerate the deployment of many of these promising technologies, particularly green hydrogen. We should capitalize on this opportunity to equitably decarbonize our economy without sacrificing the unique stability and reliability provided by the gas distribution system.

Supporting a distribution system where gas and electric utilities can continue to work together to reduce emissions will put customers first by ensuring energy remains reliable, resilient and affordable even as we collectively work towards a more sustainable energy system.