Posted December 20, 2017
We are constantly researching and creating innovative ways to make natural gas-fueled energy generation cleaner. Whether it’s responsibly developing natural gas in such abundance that many utilities are converting old power plants to run on cleaner, more affordable fuels or investing billions to improve the environmental performance of refineries and the products they deliver, like lower-sulfur gas for vehicles, the industry continues to demonstrate its dedication to making the world in which we live, work and grow safer.
The U.S. is a world leader in natural gas production and this increased supply is helping to bring more and more renewable energy into the grid. Our nation’s growing reliance on abundant natural gas use has meant that renewable technologies could be adopted without sacrificing affordability. In fact, with natural gas playing a large role the U.S. reached record lows in energy prices in 2016.
But the benefits of a diverse energy mix extend beyond costs for consumers and businesses. In partnering with renewables, natural gas is bettering the environment and improving the health of every American. We care about the communities we’re a part of, and with natural gas helping to diversify the fuels used for power generation, we’re helping to make them better for everyone.
Affordable Power for a Brighter Future
The availability of affordable, reliable energy is critical for families to thrive and businesses to prosper. So it's no wonder that Texas, home to two of America’s top five fastest growing cities, leads the country in natural gas and oil production. Those energy sources help the Lone Star State maintain its position as a national frontrunner in power generation. Today, a sizable proportion of Texas’s electricity comes from wind and natural gas.
In just 10 years Texas became a model state for natural gas and non-hydropower renewable energy – telling a much larger story unfolding within the energy sector. Natural gas has become renewable energy’s essential and most reliable partner, enabling wind and solar to become significant power sources even as it is a lead fuel for electricity generation.
Flexible Energy for an Evolving World
Furthermore, a recent study on the diversity of reliability attributes associated with the modern electricity grid found that natural gas generation is uniquely positioned among energy sources to provide necessary reliability attributes, including dispatchability, ramp rates, frequency response, that ultimately ensure the health of the U.S. grid. As the United States’ leading energy source for generating electricity last year, natural gas generation has improved the stability and balance of our nation’s power system.
Natural gas provides on-demand, dispatchable power, paving the way for the integration of renewables into our energy mix. As a power source, natural gas is not only flexible, but better for the environment – producing much smaller amounts of potentially harmful emissions found in other fossil fuels. Driven by our commitment to responsibly power the world, our diversification of energy sources is helping to make power more affordable, our air cleaner and our grid more reliable. Renewable energy made up 14.8 percent (5.6 quadrillion Btu) of U.S. electric power sector energy consumption in 2016, with solar and wind meeting roughly six percent of U.S. electricity needs. The teamwork between renewables and natural gas is an important part of a diverse energy future. Why? Renewables are an intermittent power source that call upon other clean energy sources to help keep the grid reliable. And according to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, natural gas provides clean and reliable power that goes hand-in-hand with renewable energy.
The study found that, between 1990 and 2013, for every 1 percent increase in natural gas’ share of electricity generation, there was a 0.88 percent increase in renewable generating capacity. Renewables and natural gas, the report concluded, “are highly complementary and should be jointly installed to meet goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.”
In 2013, NRG Energy converted California’s coal-burning El Segundo Energy Center into a natural gas plant. The second of its kind, this “flexible” natural gas plant is designed to provide baseload energy and enable more renewable energy to come online. It can start up and shut down quickly, delivering more than half its generating capacity in less than 10 minutes. The plant has a capacity of 550 megawatts (MW), or enough to power 450,000 homes.
And as more and more plants are designed for the flexible use of natural gas, renewables will increasingly become part of our cleaner and more affordable energy mix.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Wallace is an associate of research and content development for the American Petroleum Institute. Before joining API she was a researcher and policy analyst at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and worked on pollinator conservation programs and state wildlife conservation policies before entering the energy industry. Kate graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Resource Economics, and earned her Master of Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves taking her dogs on hikes, travelling and navigating the northern Virginia/DC craft beer and wine scenes with her friends and family.