Natural gas utilities should play a vital role in driving the U.S. economy toward the country’s collective goal of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, each utility will have to invest in evolving technology and infrastructure, the American Gas Association (AGA) said  Tuesday.

The AGA’s leaders said in a new report the United States can achieve significant emissions reductions by accelerating the use of existing options, including renewable natural gas (RNG), methane reduction technologies and energy efficiency initiatives.

Continued developments in low-carbon gas and negative emissions technologies, however, will be needed to meet an economy-wide 2050 net-zero target, they added during a press conference. They said ongoing investment in gas delivery infrastructure is also essential.

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“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,” AGA Chair Kim Greene said.

“That’s why we’re investing $95 million every day in infrastructure upgrades,” Greene, who is also CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Company Gas, said of the U.S. gas industry. “Gas infrastructure will continue to unlock innovative solutions to meet our environmental goals…and we have no plans on slowing down.”

AGA CEO Karen Harbert said while renewable fuels such as wind and solar will also contribute significantly, gas is essential because supply/demand balances are perpetually assessed to ensure reliable energy delivery during extreme weather and through peak demand seasons.

“Americans want affordable, reliable energy and a clean environment,” Harbert said. She noted the gas utility industry added nearly 900,000 new residential customers in the U.S. between 2019-2020, the largest increase since 2006.

The AGA, which said the gas sector serves 187 million Americans daily, also outlined the industry’s progress to date in lowering emissions:

  • Reduced methane emissions by 69% since 1990;
  • Spent $125 million on a research initiative to deploy next generation technologies, including RNG and hydrogen; and 
  • Nearly 500 RNG facilities are in operation or planned in North America, with 200 in operation, 155 under construction and 103 planned.

“Policymakers at every level continue to wrestle with the questions of how we get to net-zero emissions,” Greene said, “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.”