The Role of Natural Gas as Part of Idaho’s Energy Future

Intermountain Gas Company is a natural gas distribution company serving more than 402,300 customers in?74 communities in southern Idaho. We are committed to meeting the evolving needs of our customers. With over three decades of partnership with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), we are proud of our ongoing efforts to provide industry with technologies that advance both safety and environmental excellence.

According to the Northwest Gas Association, methane emissions rates associated with natural gas production have declined continuously since 1990 and today are just 1%. Natural gas distribution systems likewise emit less than 0.1% of produced natural gas annually, decreasing emissions 73% between 1990 and 2017 even as our industry experienced a 50% increase in natural gas production.

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Natural Gas is Important both Domestically and Internationally

Natural gas remains an essential option for meeting our region’s peak energy demand. It provides critical value in balancing the electric grid as intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar comes onto the system. When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, natural gas is still available to meet the growing electricity demands of our region. And we can do so in an increasingly efficient manner through a combination of energy efficiency and integration of renewable natural gas (RNG).

At an international level, natural gas remains essential in ensuring energy security across Europe. In Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia, natural gas utilities have made significant strides in the decarbonization of the natural gas system. Today, renewable natural gas from the wastewater and agricultural sectors in Denmark comprise 26% of total gas used, with a goal of 100% RNG by 2034. A hydrogen hub connecting Denmark and Germany is now under development. Such advances ensure that natural gas is put to its highest and best use, while supporting energy security and industry.

The natural gas industry, and the industries dependent on it, also play an essential role in the US economy. In Idaho, natural gas provides skilled careers for pipefitters, chemical workers, HVAC, and water heating contractors. It’s also a key ingredient in manufacturing a wide variety of products— including pharmaceuticals, plastics, steel, and synthetic fabrics.

Idaho’s farmers rely on fertilizers made with natural gas. They also depend on natural gas for its affordability and reliability for heating even during a power outage. Without this reliable energy source, many products would not be produced, or would become more expensive, fewer jobs would be available, and Idaho would experience increases to the cost of many goods and services. That is why continued energy choice is so important in our state.

Intermountain works diligently to secure natural gas supply for our customers at the most economical price. This involves looking ahead and predicting, to the best of our ability, the future of natural gas prices. Persistent cold weather, high electric demand – generated by natural gas — ?and several other factors can contribute to increased costs.

Intermountain does not earn a profit from the cost of natural gas. Each year, our utility makes a best possible projection of what gas costs will be for the coming year. If there is a difference in what we spend on gas costs and what was planned, then we file a Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) to either credit or recoup the difference.

Idaho’s natural gas utilities are committed to providing safe, reliable service to our customers. Intermountain delivers natural gas through a highly engineered pipeline system in a safe, environmentally sound process. Natural gas pipelines are the safest method of energy transportation, according to National Transportation Safety Board statistics.

Intermountain uses the latest technology, security, and industry practices to monitor pipelines, and maintain service and safety. We implement many programs to ensure your safety: 24/7 design and construction monitoring; integrity management; inspection and patrol; public safety outreach; and communication/training with emergency officials.

The health and safety of our communities is a fundamental value of our company. That’s why we have consistently advocated for proper installation and ventilation of all natural gas equipment. We also intend to support the needs of our customers and communities, and continue to meet or exceed all environmental laws and requirements.

Intermountain Gas is committed to delivering natural gas safely and reliably to our customers. However, it’s important that natural gas appliances are maintained, utilize all proper ventilation technologies, and are safely operated. Intermountain recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors in buildings with gas equipment, and an exhaust for all electric and natural gas ranges, cooktops and ovens to eliminate the normal byproducts of cooking such as steam, smoke, grease and heat. More guidelines can be found at?http://www.008zb.com/safety-education/safety-tips/.

Intermountain Gas is proud to serve our Idaho customers with natural gas. This important resource allows renewable energy to come onto the grid without risk of brown-outs, by meeting space and water heat, cooking, and other needs. This takes pressure off the electric grid to provide this energy. Natural gas also serves as an important back-up fuel in the event of a no-power situation.

Unfortunately, some environmental interests have decided to pick specific fuels and technologies to advance while ignoring the value and benefits of others. Electrification proponents have coordinated with local governments and municipalities to encourage policy that limits the use of natural gas. This is especially concerning in colder climates like Idaho where certain electric technologies, like air-source heat pumps, have reduced operational capacity under cold weather conditions. Some local restrictions on the use of natural gas in City buildings have already taken effect as part of Boise’s 2035 Energy Future Plan. While this is concerning, Intermountain believes we can still serve as an effective partner in reliability and resilience to our customers and communities.

Through our partnership with the Low Carbon Resource Initiative (LCRI) Intermountain is helping the energy industry focus on large-scale deployment of low-carbon electric generation technologies and low carbon energy sources such as hydrogen, bioenergy, and renewable natural gas (RNG).

Our decades of partnership with GTI and their Operations Technology and Utilization Technology Development (OTD & UTD) teams have helped advance gas heat pump technologies as well as next generation combined heat and power systems leveraging the resiliency, reliability, and economy of gaseous fuels. This includes gas quality sensors for RNG to ensure pipeline grade quality for this fuel, and to preserve the integrity of end-use systems.

We look forward to continuing to partner on these efforts as well as with the North American Gas Heat Pump Collaborative, which seeks to transform the market to state-of-the-art natural gas heat pump technologies.

Intermountain supports the responsible use of our natural resources through energy efficiency. We started our energy efficiency journey in the early 1990’s when we begin offering customer rebates for high-efficiency furnaces. We’ve grown our programs significantly over time.

Since 2018 we have provided rebates to our residential and commercial customers for the purchase of energy efficient equipment and upgrades. During this time, we have processed over 15,000 applications across our service area and issued about $11.7 million in rebates. As a result, Intermountain customers have saved more than 1.5 million therms, or enough energy to serve over 1,000 homes annually.

Intermountain is also recognized as a leader driving energy efficient residential construction across our service area, receiving the 2021 ENERGY STAR ? Market Leader Award. We look forward to continuing these important efforts.

RNG is refined biogas sourced from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, farms, dairies, and other methane sources that would otherwise go into the atmosphere. Depending on the source it derives from, RNG is often carbon neutral or negative, and lowers the overall GHG intensity of the natural gas pipeline system.

As of April 2021, Intermountain’s pipelines transported more than 480,000 dekatherms of RNG from three dairy digesters to end-use customers— or enough to serve 14,000 homes for a year. We look forward to adding more RNG into our system as it becomes available.

Federal policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provide funding to states for new decarbonization and electrification strategies. Both laws have money available for investments in gas-inclusive decarbonization strategies such as renewable natural gas, hydrogen, and energy efficiency. However, the Inflation Reduction Act also provides grants which encourage conversions from natural gas to electricity at the state and local level. We believe that it is important for home and business owners to retain the right to choose the energy source that’s the best fit for their needs.

A balanced electric grid is a healthy electric grid. Retaining our right to choose the fuel source for our homes and businesses benefits everyone. Energy choice supports energy affordability and makes our communities better able to withstand strains on the grid and extreme weather events, reducing the risk of outages. It also allows companies to operate with the fuel that best serves their needs, from manufacturing concrete, to serving food cooked over a gas flame at your local restaurant.

If you have concerns about policies that restrict energy choice, you’re not alone. A Pew Research Center poll from the end of January 2022 found that most Americans would like the country to keep a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy to heat and power their homes.

Whether for or against continued energy choice and the use of natural gas, it’s important that all voices are heard regarding our state’s energy future.

Get directly involved in preserving your energy choice through www.nwenergychoice.org.