As renewable energy becomes a bigger part of our energy mix as a means of reducing carbon emissions, it’s a valid question to wonder what will happen to natural gas moving forward. Will it quickly be replaced with wind, solar and other renewables? Or will natural gas continue to be a critical tool for reducing U.S. greenhouse emissions?
The answer is simple. Natural gas is here to stay.
In this post, we’ll explain why.
Renewable Energy Sources Not Commercially Viable
For as exciting as renewable energy technology is, the truth is that renewables growth as a percentage of our total energy mix just hasn’t matched up to the hype.
As a quick example, if we look at energy generation in New England over the past decade, we see a rise in renewables’ share of just 3% (from 8% to 11%) on an average day1. When you consider the incredible strides that have been made in innovation and technology over the previous ten years, an increase of just 3% is surprising.
The reason is that renewable energy sources have not reached sufficient levels of commercialization to make a significant impact on supply. It could be decades until renewables are commercially viable to be deployed at scale beyond a marginal percentage of our energy mix. That leaves it as the cleanest remaining fuel to power the nation.
Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Uses Same Pipeline
Unlike other fossil fuels that cannot be renewed, RNG is a renewable energy source that burns in the same appliances as conventional natural gas and can be transported using the same distribution system. Investing in RNG expansion today opens up the door for easy and limitless RNG growth in the future.
Every year, more renewable natural gas enters the pipeline, lowering carbon emissions in the process. With a robust pipeline in place, the possibilities are endless.
As Natural Gas Supports Renewable Growth, Technology Improves
While it continues to meet the energy needs of communities across the country and provides backup fuel to support renewable growth, natural gas pipelines, appliances and power generation technologies continues to improve.
What this means is that every year renewables do not replace gas in the energy mix, gas consumption at the same time becomes more environmentally viable due to technological advancements, innovation and upgrades to the distribution system.
The Cleanest Fossil Fuel
Looking back again at the energy mix in New England, we see something interesting when the weather gets extremely cold: oil and coal consumption skyrocket.
Given that both oil and coal produce more than double the CO2 emissions per kWh, why does New England not turn to natural gas during cold snaps?
The answer is a lack of pipelines.
Regions that do not have sufficient natural gas pipeline capacity are working against lowering emissions due to an overreliance on oil and coal. In climates where extreme cold is present, increasing access to natural gas will lead to a greater immediate reduction in greenhouse emissions than relying on fast renewable energy growth.