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Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Natural Gas Must Be Part of the Solution

Allison Gregoire's picture
Spokesperson Nicor Gas

Nicor Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Nicor Gas serves more than 2.3 million customers in...

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  • Nov 28, 2022
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This piece originally ran in Crain’s Chicago Business on November 17, 2022 by Wendell Dallas, president and CEO of Nicor Gas.

 

I am proud to work at a company that provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to 2.3 million customers in 650 northern Illinois communities every day of the year. I began my career as an engineer and have worked in the natural gas industry for more than 30 years, so when I’m involved in discussions on how we will reach net zero and why it is so important, my analytical side comes out.

Everyone wants to reach net zero, but it’s a walk, not a sprint. Currently, 75% of the natural gas and electricity energy needs of our customers are met by natural gas in the northern Illinois region. Natural gas has to be, and is, part of the solution to reach that goal, and collaboration within the energy industry as a whole, our customers and our legislators is key.

Net zero describes the amount of greenhouse gases that are removed from the atmosphere being equal to those emitted by human activity. Understanding where energy comes from and how to integrate existing energy sources with new technologies is one of the challenges I am taking on as the new president and CEO of Nicor Gas.

We believe the best approach is an “all of the above” energy strategy that capitalizes on the unique benefits that natural gas, renewables, electricity, nuclear power and negative carbon initiatives provide and use them in a portfolio approach.

Recently, we along with our ultimate parent company, Southern Company, announced a partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Fox Valley and Northern Fox Valley to build two carbon neutral affordable housing communities in Chicagoland called Smart Neighborhoods. Communities planned in Aurora and Northern Fox Valley will total 30 single-family homes equipped with a combination of renewable, electric and natural gas technologies. 

What makes a Smart NeighborhoodsTM home smart?

Smart NeighborhoodsTM advance energy technologies that work together as part of a clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy economy. They also provide opportunities to create jobs, diverse business partnerships, economic development and green transportation options. The homes come with high efficiency building envelopes, distributed energy resources and smart home appliances that require less energy, therefore lowering monthly bills. Solar panels and battery storage solutions complement electric and natural gas technologies for the most cost-efficient, resilient path to reducing our carbon footprint.  

Why must natural gas be a part of the overall energy portfolio?

There is a strong push not only right here at home, but across the country and around the globe to rely fully on renewables as a sole energy source. However, we know that there are not enough renewables to drive sustainable service for residential and business users. It requires a partnership between natural gas, electricity and renewables to successfully meet the needs of our customers.  

In northern Illinois, we know how cold winters can get. Our customers can depend on reliable, safe natural gas service during the most frigid of days. Even during the peak loads that our systems experience during the winter, our employees have ensured 24/7/365 operations to keep homes warm and businesses running. 

How does natural gas fit into the equation?

The natural gas infrastructure can transport clean fuels such as renewable natural gas (RNG). Nicor Gas is already working with RNG producers to integrate this clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy source into our existing infrastructure and pipeline systems. As we integrate sustainable solutions like RNG, we are helping our customers – like the Habitat home buyers who will live in our Smart Neighborhoods – by reducing the carbon footprint of natural gas service.

Natural gas also is a flexible fuel for fast-ramping generation and reliable energy storage to minimize the risk of power disruptions and blackouts or brownouts during periods of peak demand. Most people do not realize that natural gas has been a key driver of emissions reductions and will continue to be for decades to come. 

Why is Nicor Gas’ role so important to the state’s clean energy future?

Public utilities, including Nicor Gas, are already working hard to educate our customers and decision-makers about why natural gas must be part of an affordable and sustainable clean energy future. We have the unique opportunity to show how innovative we can be through our “all of the above” approach to reach our net zero goals corporately and for our communities. 

With Smart NeighborhoodsTM, we are demonstrating our intention to lead by serving customers who are in the greatest need. Eligible Smart NeighborhoodsTM residents will enjoy inexpensive mortgages through Habitat for Humanity as well as state-of-the-art appliances, while lowering their monthly energy bill and reducing their carbon footprint. As these technologies advance, it’s critical that homes equipped with energy efficient technologies remain an affordable option – not a luxury – so that everyone can enjoy the savings for years to come.

Wendell Dallas

President and CEO, Nicor Gas

 

 

 

 

 

Discussions
Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Nov 30, 2022

Thank you for your post. 
I agree that the use of some natural gas is essential for the time being.

However, how does Nicor Gas evaluate the carbon intensity of the gas that you purchase and sell? Are methane and CO2 emissions from the production and transport of natural gas, especially from flaring, venting and leaks, considered for your choice of supplier?

As a large purchaser of gas, I would imagine that you have some leverage to force producers and transporters to reduce their carbon intensities. How do you use that leverage? 
 

You may want to consult with the author of the Energy Central article that appears today above yours, titled:

Everything you thought you knew about what customers want is ancient history

Among other important issues, the author points this out regarding their customers:

«For example, despite being the hardest hit during COVID-19 in terms of being able to pay their energy bills, 84 percent of Gen Zs and 73 percent of Millennials told us they are open to higher bills if it means greener energy sources. Further, 55 percent of Gen Zs and 48 percent of Millennial customers intend to invest in their own renewable generation within the next five years. These younger generations are going to be ambassadors for helping the energy industry achieve its decarbonization targets.»

 

 

Allison Gregoire's picture
Thank Allison for the Post!
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