Natural gas complements renewables
By Bill Edmonds
Oregon stepped out in front of the pack when it announced it was going to obtain 20 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. That is a challenging goal and I support it. I also believe natural gas will play an integral role in meeting these goals, providing a low-carbon solution that integrates with these renewable, intermittent resources.
Scientists and engineers regularly make new advances and discoveries in their work to develop carbonless energy, but wind and solar energy aren’t always able to meet peak loads. In fact, wind turbines in eastern Oregon were at a standstill during some of our coldest days last winter. As the amount of wind turbines grows, the swings in wind speed produce an ever increasing integration challenge for the Bonneville Power Administration and for local electric utilities.
While the amount of wind turbines is increasing, we’re not yet close to meeting our current base loads with renewables. Wind and solar only provide enough power in Oregon for 15 days, and we’ve fully allocated our hydro resources. The reality is that Oregon relies on coal for nearly 40 percent of its power generation.
We have challenges ahead in meeting an ever larger renewable goal and reducing emissions, but natural gas will help us get there. The clean-burning fuel can produce energy when called upon, while emitting less than half the carbon dioxide of coal and one-third of oil. Plus, it’s domestically abundant. An abundant supply does not mean we can use gas wastefully, but does suggest it’s a resource we can rely on. This is why Natural Resources Defense Council and World Watch Institute support the efficient use of natural gas, both used directly in the home and to back up intermittent energy sources.
Bill Edmonds is the director of environmental management and sustainability for Northwest Natural. He currently serves on the boards of the Oregon Environmental Council and Earth Advantage and sits on the Governor's Task Force to develop an Energy Performance Score for homes and buildings.
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