ATLANTA — As Russia escalates its invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. imposes sanctions banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal, America grapples with stabilizing its own energy markets. Though we produce almost all the natural gas we consume, domestic prices are increasing in response to global market volatility and growing international demand for U.S. resources. As sustainable building nonprofit Southface sees it, it’s another setback for an energy fuel source that state utilities have long touted as an affordable, reliable investment.
While states may not import natural gas from overseas, most source it from another state. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reveals that just five states — Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and West Virginia — accounted for ~69% of total U.S. dry natural gas production in 2020. The extensive infrastructure required to send gas long distances is vulnerable to disruption from threats like freezing temperatures, earthquakes, corrosion, and excavation equipment damage. Additionally, as Global Energy Monitor reports, natural gas production and systems leak greenhouse gasses that exacerbate the climate crisis, like methane, at every juncture. Despite these liabilities, many electric utilities are reluctant to redirect funds toward more reliable renewable energy resources closer to home.
Demand-side clean energy resources that equip customers to manage their own energy consumption more effectively don’t carry the same risks as natural gas. For example, infrastructure investments that unlock residential solar panels with battery storage have benefits distributed throughout communities. Energy is produced right where it’s used. The environmental toll is also substantially less than that of fossil fuel generation and transmission upgrades. Still, the question of whether affordable, reliable distributed energy resources are available to residents greatly depends on utilities and state utility regulators.
Georgia Power, Georgia’s largest utility, is updating its Integrated Resource Plan right now to determine how they will invest funds from their 2.7 million ratepayers over the next two decades. Alongside municipalities, residents, and nonprofit partners, Southface is catalyzing communities and intervening before the final vote to help curb Georgia’s reliance on natural gas. “International conflicts and volatile markets are beyond our control, but we can build the resiliency of the utilities that serve us directly,” remarked Southface Advocacy Program Director Katie Southworth. “People have more power than they think!”
Visit www.southface.org/donate to support Southface’s mission today.