Georgia’s Jekyll Island served as the backdrop for the Georgia Climate Conference, an annual event where government, researchers, community organizations and businesses exchange information and identify opportunities to partner on work across the state of Georgia.
Joanne Mello, director of sustainability and energy policy for Atlanta Gas Light’s parent company, Southern Company Gas, spoke about natural gas sector decarbonization as part of a panel of energy experts.
“Imagine a future where a rural Georgia home is weatherized and powered primarily by renewable electricity, and its high efficiency natural gas furnace and tankless water heater are fueled by renewable natural gas from a neighbor’s sustainable pig farm,” said Mello. “You compost what you can, and for your remaining waste, the community landfill facility captures and beneficially uses the waste gas generated – and the garbage trucks run on RNG too.”
That vision can be a reality, according to Mello.
In her remarks, Mello shared Southern Company Gas’ leadership in driving greenhouse gas emissions reductions from its own operations and across the natural gas supply chain. Her message focused on the future, with natural gas as a foundational fuel complementing renewables with clean, safe, reliable, affordable and ready-now solutions.
“We aren’t just talking about ideas for 2050,” Mello shared. “Our high-impact solutions are possible right now with current technology and use of gas infrastructure, and many of these solutions are already being implemented in the state of Georgia.”
Assisting with Georgia’s efforts to reduce emissions
While the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Georgia is ahead of most other states when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, Georgia Climate Conference organizers said that current conditions still require immediate attention and that Georgia’s coasts are vulnerable as part of the South Atlantic Bight, offshore waters known for very diverse ecosystems.
Perhaps one of the most promising solutions available now in Georgia is RNG from landfills, farms, municipal wastewater and other sources. RNG can augment geologic natural gas in existing pipelines. According to the American Biogas Council, Georgia ranks fourth of 50 states for its biogas production potential because of the state’s abundance of agriculture, animal manure and forest residue. A 2019 American Gas Association study concluded that RNG has the technical potential to meet a significant portion of residential, commercial and industrial natural gas needs.
Currently, Atlanta Gas Light offers two transportation tariff rates, TS-1 and TS-2, which allow third parties to interconnect and use the Atlanta Gas Light natural gas network to transport locally sourced RNG. Atlanta Gas Light transports RNG produced from landfills in metro Atlanta. Further, Atlanta Gas Light is well positioned to draw from and build on interconnect project learnings to make investments in RNG that provide benefits to customers, communities and the environment.
Southern Company Gas recently assumed ownership of an RNG facility to enhance the company’s ability to operate and manage a utility-owned RNG facility and enable the ability to provide RNG to residential, business and retail customers as well as company automotive fleets.
Several Atlanta area landfills already provide RNG for vehicle fuel, and several companies have announced that RNG will fuel portions of their fleets.
According to NGVAmerica, natural gas vehicles are 90% cleaner than the EPA’s current nitrogen oxides standard and emit up to 21% fewer GHG emissions than comparable gas and diesel vehicles. When fueling with RNG, GHG emissions can be reduced by up to 382%. Atlanta Gas Light operates 40 of 55 CNG stations in Georgia. These stations range from large transit size stations to smaller installations for light duty vehicles.
Working with the Georgia Public Service Commission, Atlanta Gas Light has led on statewide reductions in GHG emissions through several actions, notably its 23-year-old pipe replacement program, its 11-year-old system modernization effort and its resilience program called STRIDE, or Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement program. The company also has participated in EPA-led voluntary emissions reduction programs and is a founding member of ONE Future, a coalition working to lower methane emissions to less than 1% of total production rates across the natural gas supply chain by 2025. Atlanta Gas Light’s parent company and the collective group already are exceeding that goal through voluntary efforts.
In addition, leak detection and repair technology, improvements in maintenance procedures, ongoing customer programs and research and development projects focused on hydrogen, power to gas and appliance technology continue to help the company make reduction efforts and customers meet their sustainability goals.
“Atlanta Gas Light believes that natural gas, a safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy, is the foundation for improving the lives of the people we serve and enabling progress for a better future,” Mello concluded.