Las Vegas-based Southwest Gas Corp. executives are keeping an eye on the long-term potential of natural gas in light of Nevada’s new State Climate Strategy.

The Climate Strategy was issued last month and is designed to reach near-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The series of policy goals include banning the use of gas in new construction.

Southwest, which also serves Arizona and some of the mountain and desert regions in California, early last year published a GHG emissions report that included the potential impacts from a ban on gas in new building construction and gas for electric appliances. Since then, Southwest has been part of the climate discussion to decarbonize its system over time.

“We try to talk about how we can be part of the solution to climate change,” said public affairs director Scott Leedom. He noted that the onset of the pandemic hindered the process.

“Overall, we share the state’s goal of decarbonizing by 2050,” he said “We view ourselves as a partner, but we do have concerns with the policy proposal transitioning away from gas in residences and businesses.” Eventually there should be “more of a robust dialogue.”

Southwest is monitoring an effort by the Nevada Conservation League and the Natural Resources Defense Council to propose legislation for decarbonization when lawmakers meet in February.

“That’s a bill we are going to see this session,” Leedom said of a draft bill No. 773. “It would set aggressive targets that not only would we be unable to add new customers, but we would have to divert some existing ones.”

Southwest has not estimated the volumes of lost gas at stake, but Leedom said it would be significant. 

“We view ourselves as part of the solution since natural gas has been, and will be in the future” a bridge for climate change. Gas, he told NGI, “is responsible for driving down GHG emissions to a 25-year low across the country. In Nevada, 70% of the electricity comes from gas-fired generation.”

Southwest management has argued that electrification in buildings drives the use of gas from its most efficient end-uses, while keeping its most inefficient application as a boiler fuel in power plants, Leedom noted. At the same time, the utility is moving toward decarbonizing its pipeline systems with the use of renewable natural gas and hydrogen, he said.

Nationally, electrification of buildings and transportation are among the key issues this year, according to Bracewell LLP. The hydrogen economy also is seen gaining momentum this year.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak already has directed the state to “evaluate, identify and recommend the most effective climate policies and regulatory initiatives in a comprehensive climate strategy.”

Leedom said Southwest intends to help shape the future of gas in the state. This year, the utility is pursuing legislation to establish an infrastructure replacement program to proactively replace aging infrastructure that is prone to leaks and failure and replace it to ensure more GHG emission reductions, Leedom said.