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Southern Company Gas study identifies affordable net-zero pathways

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A new study exploring different pathways for Southern Company Gas to achieve net-zero direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has found incorporating natural gas efficiency technologies and RNG to be the most beneficial in terms of cost and sustainability.

The analysis demonstrates that Southern Company Gas expects to be able to fully support its Atlanta-based parent Southern Company’s goal to reach enterprise-wide, net-zero direct GHG emissions by 2050 in addition to providing benefits to its customers and communities.

Conducted by consulting firm ICF, the study revealed that Southern Company Gas’s operating companies (subsidiaries) could offset direct methane emissions with RNG projects providing local supply and economic development opportunities in each state. For example, in partnership with agricultural interests, such as dairy farmers or food processors, on-site facilities, can convert animal, food, and agricultural waste into a useful fuel for customers and prevent the release of methane emissions.

The study analysed four different potential approaches, or pathways, for reducing emissions, associated with the company’s residential and commercial customers’ natural gas use in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, and Virginia. Two of the pathways were based on increased building efficiency, high-efficiency gas heating technology, and the use of RNG. The third scenario focused on mandatory 100% electrification, and the fourth used a hybrid natural gas/electric approach for building heating.

Comparing the costs and performance associated with each pathway, the analysis determined that the pathway incorporating natural gas efficiency technologies and RNG is lower cost and produces more GHG reductions than the mandatory 100% electrification pathway. The study also shows energy costs can remain affordable by leveraging existing natural gas networks with new energy-efficient technologies and renewable gas.

“This research shows natural gas and our modern delivery infrastructure are foundational to achieving our net-zero goals,” said Kim Greene, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company Gas.

“The identified natural gas-focused pathways include a balanced approach addressing how our utility operations and gas supply practices can be leveraged to achieve important climate goals, and that natural gas solutions provide a practical and realistic pathway that is affordable for our customers.

“With supportive regulations and policies, we can continue providing the clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy our 4.3 million customers depend on and deserve while also reducing GHG emissions.”

The proposed solutions and pathways will be customised for each Southern Gas Company subsidiary and the company will continue to work with state regulators, key policymakers, and stakeholder groups to design workable plans for each utility.