NW Natural falls short on offsetting emissions with renewable natural gas

By Oliver Townsend Jul 10, 2024
NW Natural once again misses its own targets to offset emissions with renewable natural gas.jpegOrginal image from: https://www.opb.org/article/2024/07/10/nw-natural-misses-own-targets-renewable-natural-gas/

NW Natural, Oregon’s largest gas utility, has once again failed to meet its own targets for acquiring renewable natural gas (RNG) to offset its carbon emissions. This marks the second consecutive year that NW Natural has fallen short of its goal, acquiring only 0.91% of its natural gas as RNG in 2023, far below its target of 5%. The challenges faced by gas utilities in transitioning to renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly evident.

The Importance of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)

RNG, a type of biogas produced from decomposing organic matter, plays a crucial role in NW Natural’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. As the burning of fossil fuels continues to contribute to climate change, RNG offers a sustainable alternative by capturing byproducts from landfills, livestock operations, and wastewater treatment. Despite the complexities involved in quantifying the benefits of RNG, NW Natural remains committed to integrating RNG into its supply chain.

NW Natural’s Efforts and Challenges

NW Natural has made strides in increasing its procurement of RNG, with its RNG volume reaching 0.15% of the company’s Oregon natural gas sales in 2022. However, the utility’s recent report indicates a decline in RNG acquisition, raising concerns about its ability to meet future sustainability goals. While NW Natural has emphasized RNG as a cost-effective solution for reducing emissions, challenges related to policy and availability continue to hinder its progress.

Community Climate Investment and Regulatory Uncertainty

In response to Oregon’s Climate Protection Program requirements, NW Natural has focused on community climate investment credits to fund renewable energy projects and lower emissions in disadvantaged communities. However, legal challenges have stalled the implementation of the program, impacting NW Natural’s ability to meet compliance targets. The utility remains optimistic about the role of RNG in meeting regulatory standards once policy uncertainties are resolved.

Addressing Supply Chain and Policy Barriers

While NW Natural acknowledges that RNG supply is not the primary obstacle to achieving its goals, the utility emphasizes the need for enabling policies to facilitate greater RNG acquisition. By advocating for supportive policies and exploring cost-effective opportunities, NW Natural aims to overcome existing barriers and enhance its commitment to sustainability. The utility’s proactive approach demonstrates its dedication to driving positive environmental impact despite challenges.

Outlook and Environmental Considerations

As NW Natural navigates the complexities of RNG procurement and emission reduction, stakeholders like the Oregon Citizens Utility Board emphasize the importance of accelerating progress toward sustainable practices. While RNG presents opportunities for lowering carbon emissions, its cost and availability limitations underscore the need for innovative solutions and collaborative efforts. Moving forward, NW Natural’s strategic decisions will play a crucial role in shaping the utility’s environmental impact and long-term sustainability goals.

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