Establishing the role of natural gas in a renewable energy world

10/10/2019

Michael Istre, project manager at the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America’s subsidiary, The INGAA Foundation, Inc., outlineds how growing renewables use is expanding, not replacing, natural gas needs, as the United States enters the early phases of transitioning to a lower-carbon economy.

One of the major goals of environmentally-driven energy policy is to advance the retirement of coal-fired and nuclear-powered electricity generation facilities. The scale of the retirements over the next 20 years is set to dramatically change the composition of how America meets its energy needs.

Between 2020 and 2040, approximately 82 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity production capacity will be phased out across the U.S., driven in part by access to feedstock. Over the same period, 48 gigawatts of nuclear electricity production also will go offline. This change has been long in coming, with licenses and permits to operate not being renewed.

Eliminating pollutive sources of energy is only half of the problem, however, and renewables are not quite ready to fully replace coal and nuclear power generation on their own. Challenges around renewable energy abound, from misalignment of renewable resources to seasonal energy storage challenges.

“Coordinating with the renewables industry is key,” Istre said. “We have to learn how we can apply natural gas and LNG to help these renewable sources get established.” A joint approach can help alleviate some of the challenges of wind and solar in the short term, while driving technological advances that will allow renewables to play a larger role as energy demand continues to grow.

“First and foremost, people need to understand that natural gas is a green energy source,” Istre said. “Natual gas use in the United States has increased approximately 50% over the past decade, while greenhouse emissions have seen an 11% decline.” Helping communities see natural gas, and the pipelines that transport it, as an integral part of a new energy policy, is the challenge, he added.

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