Southern California Gas Co. President and CEO Michael Allman: Natural Gas: Part Of The Clean Energy Solution

Michael AllmanCalifornia policy makers have set ambitious goals for renewable energy and put in place laws to reduce the Golden State's carbon footprint.  While the sun and wind are valuable resources, we can’t always count on them to provide us with the energy we need because they are not always available 24/7. I believe part of the answer lies in an energy resource that is often overlooked, has many attributes and already plays an important role in powering California.  I am referring to natural gas – an efficient, reliable, cost-effective energy solution.

Where else can you find an energy resource that is always available and can warm your home, heat your water, dry your clothes, fuel your car and cook your food -- and at a fraction of the cost of other energy sources and with a much smaller environmental impact?  Additionally, in California, natural gas is the power behind virtually every plug and every light switch. That’s because more than 45 percent of the electricity consumed by the state is produced in power plants fueled by clean natural gas.

Natural gas is part of the clean transportation solution.  When considering price, efficiency and environmental benefits, natural gas is a good alternative to gasoline.  We’ve seen the price of gasoline skyrocket to levels that have made it much more difficult for consumers in this tough economy.  Many cities, counties, businesses and individuals in our service territory have switched over to natural gas vehicles because it helps reduce transportation costs and lower vehicle emissions. You can find a gallon of compressed natural gas at about half the price per equivalent gasoline gallon.  

Agencies like the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are leading the way for clean air in California. The MTA is the only major transit agency in the nation with a bus fleet that is run solely by compressed natural gas.  The MTA states that when compared with diesel buses, their new compressed natural gas fleet has helped reduce cancer-causing particulate matter by more than 80 percent.

At Southern California Gas Co., we’ve embarked on a fleet replacement strategy to help reduce the emissions of our own fleet. As part of this, we are adding 1,000 new natural gas powered trucks to our fleet over the next few years. 

Already a source of clean energy, natural gas can make the air even cleaner when it is produced in a new way: from renewable sources such as waste products, like wastewater, animal manure, food waste and green waste. We work very closely with businesses to convert waste material from their facilities into renewable biogas.  In California, we have rich sources of organic waste that can produce significant quantities of biogas. Businesses such as waste water treatment plants, food processing companies, dairies and others can potentially convert waste into a clean fuel source to meet on-site energy needs.  This biogas also can be sold to natural gas suppliers or electric utilities for generation. Either way, the use of renewable natural gas can be a win-win for some businesses and definitely for the environment.  

SoCalGas, along with the City of Escondido, launched the state’s first renewable energy project earlier this year at a wastewater treatment plant where we are taking raw biogas and purifying the methane to a quality for injection into the natural gas system. This 12-month demonstration project is a great example of a creative solution that helps producers of organic waste turn waste into usable renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially produce a revenue stream for the customer. 

We also focus on energy conservation.  Over the last 20 years, SoCalGas has helped customers save over 410 million therms, equal to the amount of natural gas required to serve over 820,000 homes for one year.  We make every effort to help businesses plan for a sustainable future by providing services and incentives that can positively affect their bottom line -- especially during this economy.  Many of the local businesses we work with have stepped up to conserve energy in order to improve their operations and reduce energy costs, while also protecting the environment. They’ve benefited from the $51 million in rebates and incentives that are available this year for qualified energy-efficiency projects.

By late next year, we will begin the installation of advanced meters to help our customers better understand their energy usage so they can better control their natural gas use and costs. Once all advanced meters are installed throughout our service area, we expect the resulting reduced natural gas usage will save our customers money and reduce overall emissions.

As an abundant, domestic and afford­able source of energy, natural gas is an important part of the energy solution. Combined with electricity and alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and even renewable biogas, natural gas can help the state achieve its goals of a clean energy future.

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