Synergies of Natural Gas and Renewable Energy

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Synergies of Natural Gas and Renewable Energy


There has been a great deal of discussion in the past several months that perhaps natural gas is competing (and winning) against renewable energy. In fact, the two work well together, complementing each other because:

“The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.”

In other words, natural gas provides an affordable and clean alternative when wind and solar energy cannot be relied upon.

Bottom line is, the renewable energy sector needs natural gas – to light homes at night, heat buildings in winter, and provide fuel to build wind turbines. Natural gas and steel are raw materials needed for renewable energy generation plants and wind turbines.

How they compliment each other

Here is more on complementary relationships between natural gas and renewable energy:

  • Natural gas electricity requires lower capital costs. Fuel costs are variable and very low right now.
  • Renewable energy electricity: While the capital investment is higher, the fuel costs are zero.
  • Natural gas is key to new transportation infrastructure, and eventually, technology will allow for both natural and renewable fuel in vehicles.

So, in fact, there are many synergies between the two.

CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association Rhone Resch says, “I think it’s important to recognize that (the renewable and natural gas) industries, although we do compete, are working together to address some of the most pressing energy needs in the country.”

Benefits for the Environment and the United States

Here’s where they can work together to benefit the U.S. and environment:

  • Create a more secure energy environment in the future because it decreases, if not eliminates, our dependency on foreign oil.
  • Help to meet emissions targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 85% of 1990 levels by 2050.

The National Renewable Energy laboratory and Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis have issued a white paper on the potential synergies between natural gas and renewable energy.

How Natural Gas and Renewable Energy work together

In this report, they propose nine ways to natural gas and renewable energy can collaborate rather than compete:

    1. Hybrid technology: Take the best of both worlds and bring them together by capitalizing on the strength of one to compensate for the weakness of the other.
    2. Systems integration: Use technology to optimize components like real-time energy pricing, smart grids, and demand response.
    3. Power sector market design: Coordinate market structure, regulations, operation and transmission for optimized use.
    4. Comparative analysis of alternative transportation pathways: Better analysis of alternative transportation pathways as we seek to evolve transportation fuels.
    5. Enhanced quantitative tools and models: Better planning models to help with the systems integration.
    6. Public policy: Energy diversity is always good. Both industries can open dialogue to define individual roles and have a concerted approach to public policy.
    7. Portfolio approach to research and development: Better economies of scale can be attained when the two work together rather than funding separate initiatives.
    8. Joint myth-busters initiative: A joint communications campaign can debunk misperceptions of both industries.
    9. Optimized long-term and cross-sectoral use of resources: Analyze results from all of the above to determine the best roles for each industry.

In conclusion, there are many benefits when natural gas is combined with renewable energy. These resources are providing reliable and affordable power, and that is good for the environment and the economy.