Energy Transfer LP said it formed a new business to develop alternative energy products as part of an ongoing effort to reduce its environmental footprint.
The new operation, called the Alternative Energy Group, will focus on renewable energy projects such as solar and wind farms, either as a power purchaser or in partnership with third-party developers, the Dallas-based pipeline operator said. It may also develop renewable diesel and natural gas projects that could use existing pipelines throughout Energy Transfer’s system, which consists of more than 90,000 miles of pipelines crossing 38 states.
The new business will be led by general counsel Tom Mason.
Among early endeavors, Alternative Energy Group said it supported the construction of the Maplewood 2 Solar Project in West Texas along with Recurrent Energy. The 28 MW solar project, expected to be in service in the second quarter, is the new group’s first-ever dedicated solar power purchase contract.
“While we currently use a diversified mix of energy sources along with emission-reducing technologies to operate our assets, this project marks a new milestone for us,” said Energy Transfer President Mackie McCrea.
Energy Transfer has faced its share of challenges from environmentalists. Most notably, the company’s plan to expand the controversial Dakota Access crude oil pipeline has been met with repeated court challenges from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and other plaintiffs who, among other criticisms, have opposed the pipeline that stretches from North Dakota to Illinois because of pollution concerns.
Energy Transfer is hardly alone in shifting, at least in part, to renewables. Oil and gas companies of all sizes and specialties are under increasing pressure from investors and governments to find ways to combat climate change.
President Biden, who took office in January, said he would pursue policies to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. He campaigned on a vow to put the United States on a path to a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. Those goals align with the international targets established with the United Nations climate accord, aka the Paris Agreement.
Executives at several major oil and gas giants, including ExxonMobil in the United States and BP plc in Great Britain, said during fourth quarter earnings calls they are ramping up their pursuits of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and technology such carbon capture and storage.
These efforts are “crucial” for “achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement,” ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said.
Energy Transfer reports fourth quarter earnings on Wednesday (Feb. 17). During its third quarter earnings call, executives noted what they called substantial progress on the clean energy front.
“Approximately 20% of the electrical energy we purchase originates from renewables and we expect that will continue to grow,” CFO Tom Long said. “We have approximately 18,000 solar panels located at pipeline metering stations across the country, and we also own a gas-fired electric generation company that uses renewable natural gas in Pennsylvania to generate electricity.”
Additionally, he added, “Our dual drop compressors, which have a patented technology that allows for switching between electric motors and natural gas engines to drive compressors, offers the industry a more efficient compression solution, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
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