Surveys show that 80% of NW Natural’s residential customers prefer natural gas for heating and cooking, CEO David Anderson said Wednesday.

Anderson spoke at a virtual forum sponsored by the American Gas Association (AGA).

“More than 80% of those surveyed said they would pay $50,000 more for a median-priced home with gas appliances over an all-electric home, said Anderson, who also chairs AGA.

NW Natural is planning 3,000-4,000 annual conversions in a target market of 80,000. It has 150,000 customers near existing distribution mains and an overall conversion market of 400,000. The Portland, OR-based gas utility serves 63% of the residential customers in its territory across Oregon and parts of Washington.

In the greater Portland metropolitan area and surrounding areas of the state and in southern Washington, Anderson said gas has a 65% price advantage over electric furnaces and a 15% advantage over high-efficiency heat pumps.

NW Natural is finishing up a five-year $1.1 billion gas utility capital spending program and forecasting $230 million in annual gas system investments through 2025. It has set a goal to reduce by 30% its carbon footprint by 2035 and become carbon neutral by 2050. 

Plans are to expand the use of renewable natural gas (RNG) and eventually use green hydrogen.

Under Oregon Senate Bill 98, which sets voluntary RNG portfolio targets, NW Natural has multiple paths to use RNG in power generation, transportation and other end-uses. 

“It’s a potential revenue source for communities to turn their waste into energy,” said Anderson.