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Natural Gas & Renewable Energy – Future Energy Sources?

natural-gasIf you’ve lived through the past decade, you are well aware of the growing concern surrounding protecting the environment, and companies restructuring their missions to include green initiatives. Whether you believe in global warming or not, there is no denying that we are in need of clean and renewable energy resources. Greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly on the rise, and as a result, the world is heating up fast—perhaps the reason for frequently occurring natural disasters, such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. While non-renewable energy resources like natural gas are affordable, they are limited by nature and pollute the environment. The development and implementation of renewable resources like solar and wind power is crucial for future energy use. However, natural gas still remains one of the main sources of energy. Is there a way for natural gas and renewable energy to work together?

According to a recent Brattle Group report for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition, the answer is yes. Coalition chairman, and state Senator Kip Averitt, explains that very soon Texas is going to require a considerable amount of new electricity generation, and that the two sources of natural gas and renewable energy could work together on the Texas grid, rather than compete. Texas leads the nation in wind generation, but the state is also the largest producer of natural gas, making the Lone Star State a prime test market for the integration of these two sources of electricity generation.

Energy sources like wind and solar power displace non-renewable resources, such as natural gas because they are cleaner and renewable. The wind and sun are free and limitless. Yet, wind and solar energy are not always reliable because the sources cannot be stored, and they are not consistently available on days with intermittent wind and broken sunshine. On the other hand, with improved distribution and technological advancements over the years, natural gas is being used in new ways. According to a report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an increased use of natural gas in key sectors of the economy like manufacturing, buildings, transportation and power generation can greatly help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near term. In 2011, even as overall electricity generation increased, United States power plants have reduced emissions, based on recent data from the Energy Information Administration. This is mainly a result of increased use of natural gas and a growing reliance on renewable energy.

Natural gas is used across almost every sector of the economy. The graph below portrays the proportion of natural gas used in each sector, showing that the industrial sector uses the greatest amount of natural gas in the United States.

natural-gas-consumption

Demand response (DR) has become an important component of electric system planning. Utilities and regulatory commissions are setting goals to take wasteful power plants off the grid and get a higher percentage of energy supply from natural gas and renewable resources. However, demand for electricity continues to increase. Utilities will need to develop a mix of generation sources going forward to provide enough power to consumers, especially when hot summer days pinch electric reserves, leading to emergency notices where customers are asked to conserve electricity use to prevent strain on the grid. Find out how demand response works by clicking this link.

There are some challenges to increasing the use of natural gas including overcoming government regulations and the distribution and transmission of natural gas. Yet, by pairing as a backup with renewable energy, it is believed to provide a reliable and cleaner source of electricity generation. Renewable energy generators have high capital costs, but essentially no fuel costs, while natural gas generation has low capital costs and variable fuel costs.

With rising natural gas prices, some might say utilities will switch back to more coal generation, but it’s highly unlikely considering current and expected emission regulations. Together, natural gas and renewable resources generate power while emitting fewer greenhouse gases than coal. It’s safe to say the partnering of natural gas and renewable resources will be a great source of electricity generation in the near future.

To learn more about demand response, natural gas procurement, and industrial energy management services, click here or here, or visit this link.

Mary Grew
Energy Curtailment Specialists

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