NW Natural Charts a Green-energy Path that Includes Renewable Natural Gas

By Steve Law, Portland Tribune.

At a time when President Donald Trump is forcing the federal government to disregard the threat from climate change, NW Natural is charting a strategy to achieve what it calls "aggressive greenhouse gas reductions." 

The Portland-based utility's plan lays out how a company that sells fossil fuel can do its part to avert dramatic global warming — largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. 

In briefings last week, NW Natural unveiled a game plan to voluntarily slash carbon emissions from that sector 30 percent by 2035, compared to 2015 levels. 

"We believe there is a climate imperative," said Kim Heiting, NW Natural's chief marketing officer and vice president for communications, releasing what the utility calls its "low-carbon pathway." 

Beyond 2035, Heiting said, the company realizes it has to go much further down the road to "deep de-carbonization." 

The low-carbon pathway emerged from NW Natural's latest round of strategic planning completed in September, Heiting said. Though the strategy has the support of the corporation's board of directors, it only went public last week, when the utility briefed the Oregon Public Utility Commission, environment groups and other stakeholders. 

It's unclear what the plan would do to customer energy prices. But now they're at historically low levels thanks to efficiency gains achieved by fracking techniques to extract natural gas. Fracking causes earthquakes and soils the land and water, and so far those impacts aren't factored into the low price of the energy. 

Last week's announcement that NW Natural is working with Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services to produce usable gas as a byproduct from the city's sewage treatment plant is a sign of things to come.