Panel: Renewables and natural gas should work together

The push for more renewables usage across the US may initially seem like a hurdle for the natural gas industry to leap over, but panelists at last week’s North American Gas Forum in Washington, D.C., argued that synergy and innovation in both sectors can help address surging demand both domestically and across the world.

Even though Jeff Stein, an American Petroleum Institute market development policy adviser, believes that natural gas and renewables could each stand alone, he argued that the two sectors can bolster one another and make progress on carbon-reduction goals.

“Natural gas isn’t just the backup of renewable energy,” said Stein, adding that “natural gas will be the foundation for a grid that is cleaner, flexible and more dynamic.”

Melanie Kenderdine of the Energy Futures Initiative noted that “the biggest challenge is climate change and what the challenges are” and that “there is both a world for natural gas and renewables.”

She described predicted increases in global population as an impending energy crisis, with a need for countries such as Nigeria and India to have access to ever-greater amounts of energy in a way that pollutes less.

“We need to be upping the urgency in thinking through how these different energy sources work together in a carbon-restrained world,” added Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Much of the carbon dioxide emissions reductions in the US can be chalked up to the “emergence of natural gas and [...] its availability and price” and the growth of the renewables sector. In his eyes, responding to increased energy demand will only be successfully done through growing both of these industries.

Like Kenderdine, Stein noted the need to address increasing energy demand from developing nations, where the ability to “marry” poverty and sustainability goals will be essential to unlocking further clean-grid targets. Successful industrial synergy between natural gas and renewables will require the integration of newer technologies to support one another in a reliable manner that allows for demand fluctuation.

“It’s very scary, but very exciting, to see where technology will lead us,” said Martin Keller, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s director.