Natural gas plays an essential role in meeting Minnesota’s energy needs by providing reliable, affordable energy for our homes and businesses. As the least expensive home heating energy source available, it is no wonder that two of every three Minnesota households (even more in the Twin Cities metro area) depend on natural gas for heating.
For nearly 150 years, CenterPoint Energy has served as a trusted energy partner delivering the warmth of natural gas to more than 860,000 customers in Minnesota. As a good corporate citizen and environmental steward, CenterPoint Energy is also focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to natural gas.
Because CenterPoint Energy is a regulated utility, we have the obligation to ensure reliable energy at a reasonable cost. Balancing this mandate with the need to address climate change is a challenge, especially when the cost of natural gas is low and the cost of alternatives is high.
At CenterPoint Energy, we take this challenge seriously. That’s why we have worked hard to limit the climate impact of our business while also helping our customers conserve energy to save money and reduce their own climate impact.
Since 1994, energy-efficiency improvements for Minnesota homes and businesses through CenterPoint Energy’s nation-leading Conservation Improvement Program have avoided an estimated total of 11.3 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to the annual energy use of 1.35 million homes.
CenterPoint Energy is also an active partner in the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership. So it was disappointing to see natural gas singled out as a problem when CenterPoint Energy has already achieved significant success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with major plans to do even more (“Mpls. hopes to trim natural gas use,” Aug. 28).
For a natural gas distribution company like CenterPoint Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measures greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: pipeline emissions and end-use direct emissions.
CenterPoint Energy is focused on reducing both.
First, as a founding member of the EPA’s voluntary Methane Challenge Program, we have significantly reduced methane emissions from of our distribution system. We have done this with improved leak detection through the permanent replacement of bare steel and cast-iron pipelines across our distribution system. Since 2013, CenterPoint Energy has reduced methane emissions attributable to its Minnesota operations by 18%.
Second, end-use greenhouse gas emission levels are directly tied to customer use of natural gas, which fluctuates with the weather. During last winter’s coldest days, our customers appreciated that natural gas offered a reliable source of heating when many renewable-energy providers were unable to generate electricity. The experience reinforces the critical need for a balance of diverse energy sources.
CenterPoint Energy continues to look at new ways to make natural gas cleaner with new supply sources and technology.
For example, over the past year we have been working with stakeholders to bring Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) to our customers, allowing them to buy renewable waste gas captured from landfills, wastewater facilities, dairy farms and other agricultural operations. As we transition to adding RNG to our gas system, we can cut more emissions than by converting buildings to electric-only energy.
We are also testing innovative clean carbon-capture technology to allow our customers to take carbon dioxide released by burning natural gas and convert it into carbonate, which can be put to productive uses. Minneapolis city officials should be pleased that several of these test units, the first to be used in the U.S., will be installed in their city.
At CenterPoint Energy, how we deliver energy is as important as what we deliver. We want the customers and communities we serve to know that CenterPoint Energy remains committed to its trusted role providing reliable, affordable, environmentally responsible energy that’s available around the clock, even on the coldest days, to keep Minnesotans safe and warm.
Brad Tutunjian is vice president, Minnesota region, at CenterPoint Energy.