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Sustainability

Our Low Carbon Pathway

We’ve working toward a voluntary carbon savings goal of 30% by 2035.

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Pathways to decarbonization

 

NW Natural is helping the region meet its climate challenges, with new approaches to capturing, storing and delivering clean energy.

We’re looking for ways to reduce emissions in our operations and supply chain, lower the carbon intensity of the energy we provide to customers, and replace dirtier transportation fuels with cleaner alternatives.

Learn more at LessWeCan.com.

 
 
 
 
 

Pivotal role for natural gas

A new study commissioned by NW Natural and conducted by independent consulting firm, Energy and Environmental Economics (E3), shows natural gas plays a pivotal role in helping the region meet dramatic emission reduction goals most affordably and reliably.

To date, all decarbonization studies agree that meeting the challenge of 80% carbon reduction by 2050 means using energy more efficiently, ramping up renewable resources, electrifying passenger vehicles, and aggressively developing biofuels like renewable natural gas.

E3’s study also takes a hard look at how to meet the energy needs of homes and businesses on the coldest winter days in the Pacific Northwest—times when the regional energy infrastructure is already at or near capacity.

The study found that using the existing natural gas system and adding 25% renewable natural gas (RNG) to heat homes can help reduce emissions more affordably and reliably than other pathways considered.

Renewable natural gas can be produced from many different types of waste.

Renewable natural gas can be produced from many different types of waste.

 

Renewable natural gas in Oregon

Organic materials like wood waste, food and agricultural waste, and even human waste all release biogases as they decompose. Now we can capture those gases and condition it to pipeline quality renewable natural gas.

With renewable natural gas, we’re finding new ways to lower emissions and at the same time close the loop on this waste, beginning with wastewater treatment plants here in Oregon. We’re also looking ahead at other sources, such as landfills, food scraps, dairy farms and wood waste.

 

50

billion cubic feet

Potential for renewable natural gas production in Oregon, according to Oregon’s Department of Energy report. That’s equivalent to the amount used by all residential gas customers in Oregon.

 
 
 

Power to Gas

What if you could capture and store surplus wind and solar energy by converting to a renewable gas?

That’s the promise of power-to-gas, a cutting edge technology that uses clean electricity and electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water. This renewably produced hydrogen could be blended into the natural gas system or used as a vehicle fuel in fuel cells.

Today we’re working with other utilities, universities and manufacturers to better understand the technical and regulatory requirements for power to gas. And in 2018 we helped launch the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance, a trade association supporting hydrogen and power to gas in the policy arena.

 
 
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Fuel for the Future

 
 

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

Heavy-duty vehicles that run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel have 90% less NOx emissions and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions (up to 125%). They also provide reliability and cost-savings unmatched by other alternative fuels.

Cherriots saves on fuel with compressed natural gas.

Cherriots saves on fuel with compressed natural gas.

Cherriots runs on CNG

The transit provider serving the Salem-Keizer community is called Cherriots—a nod to Salem’s nickname of the Cherry City. As part of its commitment to sustainable business practices, Cherriots has been running buses on compressed natural gas (CNG) since 1998.

Today, 34 of its 64 full-sized buses serving fixed routes use CNG. Over a 12-year period, the transit provider estimates savings of $1.5 million using CNG rather than diesel.

City vehicles fuel up with natural gas at the Columbia Boulevard wastewater facility.

City vehicles fuel up with natural gas at the Columbia Boulevard wastewater facility.

City opens first CNG fueling

In partnership with NW Natural, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish announced the opening of a compressed natural gas fueling facility at its Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant in March 2018.

Part of the Bureau of Environmental Services’ Renewable Natural Gas project now underway, fueling will switch to renewable natural gas produced on-site in 2019. This pipeline quality renewable gas will also be available to others via NW Natural's distribution system.

 
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Energy efficiency

 
 

In partnership with Energy Trust and our customers

Energy efficiency is a powerhouse for reducing emissions. Since 1970 NW Natural residential customers have cut their emissions in half. From conservation to equipment innovation, energy efficiency represents the single largest opportunity to reduce emissions.

In short, we won’t achieve our carbon savings goal without the support of you, our customer. The good news is we believe increasing efficiency means using less, but also making sure you stay warm and comfortable in the process. Working together, we can use less and offset the rest. 

 

36,287

metric tons

Equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emissions avoided through energy efficiency

6.85

million

Therms saved by NW Natural customers through Energy Trust of Oregon in 2018

 
 
Dan Lincoln, building employee at ilani Casino Resort, demonstrates the control panel on a high-efficiency condensing boiler. The resort will save more than $40,000 annually thanks to energy-efficient equipment.

Dan Lincoln, building employee at ilani Casino Resort, demonstrates the control panel on a high-efficiency condensing boiler. The resort will save more than $40,000 annually thanks to energy-efficient equipment.

ilani doubles down on green

Green was a sure bet at the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s new ilani Casino Resort, located on its 150-acre reservation near Ridgefield, WA. Energy Trust of Oregon supports business customers of NW Natural in Washington. The management team worked with Energy Trust to make installing energy-efficient equipment during construction of this 368,000 square-foot facility more affordable.

They took advantage of incentives to purchase three gas-fired condensing boilers to help with space and water heating. This equipment will save an estimated 51,300 therms annually which translates into $41,100 annual energy cost savings. The new boilers require less maintenance, which frees up time for staff to focus on other tasks.

NW Natural energy champion Walter Fuller is leading efforts to reduce energy usage at company facilities at least 10 percent by 2025.

NW Natural energy champion Walter Fuller is leading efforts to reduce energy usage at company facilities at least 10 percent by 2025.

Bright ideas in efficiency

By replacing nearly 300 overhead fixtures with high-efficiency LED lights and sensors, NW Natural expects to trim electricity use by more than 80 percent at our Sherwood warehouse and garage.

This and other lighting projects in 2018 emerged from a year-long Strategic Energy Management (SEM) workshop that NW Natural took part in with other large commercial businesses.

As a customer of Portland General Electric, NW Natural was able to claim more than $50,000 in Energy Trust incentives along with $25,000 in expected annual energy saving for the Sherwood project alone. More projects—and savings—are on the way in 2019.

New products with increased efficiency will be a key measure of success for the continued evolution of natural gas equipment.

New products with increased efficiency will be a key measure of success for the continued evolution of natural gas equipment.

Product innovation

NW Natural is working with peer utilities and organizations like the Gas Technology Institute and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to advance market availability of new high-efficiency equipment like natural gas heat pumps, which offer efficiencies of greater than 100 percent.

Thanks to funding and advocacy from gas utilities like NW Natural, NEEA has worked to support the adoption of efficient natural gas technologies and to influence more effective codes and standards.

 

Low-Income Programs

 
 

Our Low-Income Energy Efficiency programs in Oregon (OLIEE) and Washington (WALIEE) work with community action agencies to identify customers eligible for programs such as weatherization, bill payment assistance and more.

 
 
 

Weatherization

Our customers pay a public purpose charge that supports energy efficiency and cost-effective upgrades for lower income customers. We work with Community Action Agencies to make sure those funds reach homeowners and renters who need them.

An average project will reduce gas usage by about 20 percent.

A few years ago, we saw that this program wasn’t meeting the growing need in our communities. So we worked with our community partners and the utility commissions to make this work better for our customers.

We made more dollars available for health and safety improvements that are required before upgrading a heating system. In 2017 we increased the public purpose charge for the first time since the program began in 2002.

More than 300 homes received weatherization services through low-income programs from NW Natural in 2018.

More than 300 homes received weatherization services through low-income programs from NW Natural in 2018.

 

Helping heat

NW Natural customers and shareholders gave more than $150,000 to help pay for the heating bills of low-income families. Donations to the Gas Assistance Program (GAP) are distributed to community action networks, which screen all low-income recipients.

NW Natural covers the program’s administrative costs. Over the past 36 years, NW Natural’s GAP has raised about $6 million for community action groups that distribute the funds directly to those in need.

The season of giving continues: Make a contribution today.

Donations to the Gas Assistance Program totaled more than $150,000 in 2018.

Donations to the Gas Assistance Program totaled more than $150,000 in 2018.

 

 
 

“I am thrilled that there is a program that can help seniors when we can’t afford to do it ourselves. Thank you so much for making this possible. I have already noticed the effects of the work with the house just feeling much warmer and my NW Natural gas bills being lower.”

— Clackamas County resident who received insulation, ventilation and weatherization improvements through NW Natural’s OLIEEE program.

 
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Smart Energy

 
 

Use Less, Offset the Rest.

Carbon offsets are a valuable component of carbon reduction efforts, when offered alongside conservation and efficiency.

When NW Natural introduced Smart Energy back in 2007, we were the first stand-alone natural gas utility to offer a voluntary carbon offset program.

Today, 50,000 customers have chosen to offset their emissions. Customers pay a small fee to offset the emissions associated with their natural gas usage. These investments support projects such as anaerobic digesters on dairy farms in the Northwest that capture methane emissions to produce biogas.

Through 2018, the Smart Energy program has invested in offsetting the equivalent of over 721,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide— equal to the annual emissions of around 150,000 passenger vehicles.

In 2018, NW Natural contributed $19,600 on behalf of new Smart Energy customers to the Oregon State Parks Foundation (OSPF).

The Smart Energy program works with The Climate Trust to verify carbon offsets from biogas projects in the region.

The Smart Energy program works with The Climate Trust to verify carbon offsets from biogas projects in the region.