The United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has just awarded a dozen separate contracts to various entities totaling $45 million for work toward carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS).
This wise investment is especially relevant when coupled with the fact that in the PJM Interconnection (the part of the electric grid in which West Virginia is located), natural gas makes up over 40% of the 98,000 megawatts of electricity produced on an average day.
The advanced turbines of new combined cycle natural gas power plants produce less carbon than many other generating assets and will be absolutely necessary over the next several years as intermittent renewable sources come online.
Natural gas power plants provide the most flexibility to produce either more or less electricity as the grid may need it. Because of this, the United States, and West Virginia, should include natural gas as the cornerstone in the all-of-the-above approach to ensuring reliable power for our nation.
Congress is looking at a myriad of options to support reducing carbon dioxide. The abundant reserves of natural gas found in West Virginia can be part of that solution. Senator Manchin has been a solid advocate on this front, pushing back against the few who believe we should “leave it in the ground.”
A new study by West Virginia University has found that the PJM electric grid has seen a significant reduction in carbon dioxide over the last few years as numerous new combined cycle natural gas power plants have been constructed and placed on-line.
Pennsylvania and Ohio have benefited greatly as billions of dollars in new investments have been realized throughout those states with recently constructed facilities providing jobs, economic development, and much lower emissions.
Much like the cars and trucks of today versus yesteryear, these modern natural gas power plants are extremely efficient and clean. New natural gas power plants utilize a combined cycle process of both turbines and exhaust heat for steam generation.
This has led to lower electricity prices throughout states like Pennsylvania and Ohio as wholesale generators made investments that ratepayers were not burdened with.
The Pacific Research Institute released a report last month that shows wholesale power prices in the PJM Interconnection fell 41.7% from 2015 to 2020. That time frame directly corresponds to the period in which new natural gas combined cycle power plants began to come online.
As Congress continues to debate what all should be included in the definition of clean energy, natural gas must continue to be part of the conversation. The technology of carbon capture is quickly catching up to the needs of the nation. But even until carbon capture becomes financially viable, natural gas should absolutely be included in any program that advocates for clean energy.
Natural gas has led to cheaper wholesale electricity in our electric grid while lowering carbon dioxide emissions. The reliability of natural gas is essential to a modern power system, and competitive independent power producers have risen to that challenge.
Senator Manchin is right to include natural gas in any discussion of clean energy for the future of this great country.
Charlie Burd is the executive director of GO-WV, the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia.