What you should know
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Natural gas does not come in a one-size-fits-all package any more than electricity does. At Dominion Energy, we are committed to meeting both our customers’ need for flexible natural gas delivery and our communities’ demand for a cleaner environment. To these ends, Dominion Energy is developing an array of programs, partnerships, and options that improve how natural gas is produced and delivered.
These include storage, waste-to-energy, and compressed natural gas.
In 2019, we operated one of the largest natural gas systems in the country, providing about 1 trillion cubic feet of storage capacity in five states (New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia). The system consists of more than 2,300 underground storage wells into which we inject natural gas so it is available when customers and communities need it. In July of 2020, we announced the pending sale of this business to Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Some smaller gas storage operations will remain in Dominion Energy’s gas distribution portfolio.
We continue to rely on natural gas, together with quick-start power generation, as a large-scale utility battery to provide reliable, on-demand power at any time. This will allow more renewables to be added to the grid.
Waste to Energy
Nothing goes to waste in the natural ecosystem, and nothing should go to waste in our economic system, either. So we have formed partnerships with leaders in the agriculture sector to capture methane from farming operations and use it in our natural-gas business. Capturing methane and converting it to renewable natural gas substantially reduces greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture. In fact, when emitted to the atmosphere methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. Our projects are a significant net benefit for the climate as they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent when comparing the RNG used by customers to the gas released from our nation’s farms. For further details, see the section on turning waste into energy in the Beyond Net Zero section of the Cleaner Air part of this report.
Compressed Renewable Natural Gas
Using compressed natural gas (CNG) can help lower greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation, and Dominion Energy has begun working with partners to supply CNG for their fleets. One such partnership, in North Carolina, will supply CNG to the bus fleet in Raleigh. Dominion Energy North Carolina worked with the City of Raleigh to build a CNG fueling station at its Raleigh Transit Terminal. The station will be fueled by carbon-beneficial renewable natural gas from Raleigh’s waste-treatment facility, using DENC’s system to deliver the gas to the transit center. The city expects to add 70 new CNG buses to its fleet (for a total of 75), which will rely on a sustainable source of fuel for their transit operations. In Utah, we have contracted with Fleet Saver — an industrial-fleet fueling company — to distribute renewable natural gas to its fleet customers through our compressed natural gas stations.
“Adding RNG to existing gas infrastructure and fueling stations is similar to adding renewable electricity to the grid.”
Support for Renewables
While battery technology continues to progress, it has not yet reached the point at which it can store utility-scale supplies of energy for the extended periods needed to accommodate seasonal weather variability. This makes natural gas a useful support system for renewables — one that can act as a partner when regional weather patterns stymie solar and wind generation. Natural-gas-fired power plants also can cycle up quickly when unpredictable weather occurs.
In fact, as a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded, “renewable energy integration has so far been possible thanks to the presence of fast-reacting mid-merit fossil-based technologies, which act as back-up capacity.” The paper examined the experience of 26 nations in the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development and found that those with fast-start fossil-fuel generation “were more likely, ceteris paribus, to invest in renewable energy generation.” Using more natural gas has enabled Dominion Energy and the former SCANA businesses to cut their carbon dioxide emissions from power stations by 57 percent — 42 million metric tons — from 2005 to 2019.