Sustainability is embedded in our ethos. We believe that affordable, reliable, safe and increasingly clean energy is the foundation for improving the lives of people and the communities we serve, driving economic equity and enabling progress for a better future. Nicor Gas is fueling innovation, investing in communities and businesses to strengthen our region and the state.
We are exploring new partnerships and technologies that will not only reduce our own environmental footprint but help our customers do the same. Environmental stewardship is not new to us. Caring for the environment while continuously fortifying system reliability, safety and delivery of clean, affordable energy is an integral piece of our company’s history and culture. We work closely with our state commission to strategically invest in our infrastructure, meet or exceed regulatory requirements and work with organizations to protect and enhance green space for the communities where we live, work and play.
Natural gas is integral to Illinois’ clean energy economy. The state is uniquely positioned to leverage natural gas as a part of its clean and affordable energy economy because of our multistate distribution network, availability of storage fields and our portfolio approach to decarbonization – or the reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide emissions from energy sources. As a partner in statewide efforts, we’ll help make Illinois an ideal place to do business as a part of a clean energy economy.
Enabling an Economy-Wide Clean Future
Natural gas distribution companies can help facilitate an economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future by working across the value chain. Natural gas utilities have played a critical role in reducing emissions for decades, and Nicor Gas is ready to lead the pace of change as the U.S. transitions to a clean energy economy.
Over the past several decades, we have made significant progress to improve the sustainability of our system – and influenced others to make changes as well. Now, we are exploring a portfolio of opportunities to address climate change while providing even greater value to our customers and stakeholders.
Through our parent company, Southern Company Gas, we are a founding member of Our Nation’s Energy Future. This coalition of natural gas companies is working to achieve a rate of methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain that is less than 1% of total production.
Building on our engagement with ONE Future, Nicor Gas aspires to provide its customers with natural gas that is sourced, transported and distributed by companies that have pledged to reduce methane emissions.
Our Approach to Fueling Sustainability
To achieve true net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide, we must work together – and Nicor Gas remains committed to the core principles of providing clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy to our customers, now and in the future.
Nicor Gas has been a leader in the industry in making proactive system improvements to minimize methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Through our investments in pipeline and infrastructure modernization with the support of our regulators, we reduced our annual operational emissions by nearly 500,000 MtCO2e over a ten-year period of 2009 to 2019, a reduction of 54% over that time period.
New leak-detection technologies will help reduce the emissions footprint of natural gas while bringing additional operational and safety benefits to our customers and employees.
Future fuels as a path to net zero
We are focused on reducing emissions from our own business and beyond.
Our parent company, Southern Company, has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions enterprise-wide by 50% from 2007 levels by 2030 and to make its enterprise-wide operations net-zero by 2050. Following the lead of our parent company, Nicor Gas aspires to reach net-zero methane emissions from its operations by 2030.
Renewable Gas and Hydrogen
Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is a sustainable and alternative source of natural gas created by capturing and utilizing fugitive methane from non-utility sources like landfills and agricultural waste, food processing waste, municipal waste and water treatment facilities, and is consider carbon neutral at the point of use. Hydrogen generates no carbon dioxide when it burns – just water vapor – which means there is tremendous potential to reduce end-use emissions by using hydrogen as a fuel.
Our existing infrastructure can support low-carbon fuels and renewable energy to our customers and help the reduce their own carbon footprint, help our business customers achieve their sustainability goals, and create thousands of jobs across Illinois.
RNG is also a catalyst for economic growth in the state and recycles waste locally, producing revenue for farmers, industries and public facilities. Through its Renewable Gas Interconnection Pilot, Nicor Gas proposes to introduce renewable gas to its service area. We actively receive new requests for interconnection to renewable gas facilities and are working with local suppliers to integrate more renewable fuels into our system. Nicor Gas is also working with regulatory agencies, as well as local and state legislators, to bring renewable gas to our communities and facilitate economy-wide carbon reductions while fueling resiliency, energy security and the growth of the clean energy economy.
Our parent company, Southern Company, is an anchor sponsor of the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative (LCRI), a research and development collaboration between the Electric Power Research Institute and the Gas Technology Institute. Over the next five years, LCRI will focus on developing pathways to advance low-carbon technologies for large scale deployment, including hydrogen, RNG and related low-carbon resources.
Additionally, Southern Company Gas has partnered with industry peers, research consortia, academia and national laboratories to help start a new R&D initiative, known as HyBlend, to address technical barriers to blending hydrogen into natural gas infrastructure and study life-cycle emissions of hydrogen blends.
Fueling Resilience for Renewables
Natural gas plays a critical role in advancing solar and wind technologies. We work with commercial and industrial customers across northern Illinois to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable back-up generation for their renewable applications. In addition, Nicor Gas has partnered with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Habitat for Humanity to create the Nicor Gas Smart Neighborhood. This net-zero affordable housing community will demonstrate how leveraging existing natural gas systems can advance renewables in cold climate regions, driving energy affordability, reliability and resilience in communities.
Customer Empowerment and Energy Efficiency
Nicor Gas is committed to empowering our customers to reduce their footprint, which has significant potential to reduce emissions. For nearly a decade, Nicor Gas has implemented a comprehensive energy efficiency program for residential, commercial and industrial customers. We also have steadily increased energy efficiency services particularly for income qualified and public sector customers.
Since 2011, more than 845,000 customers have participated in the program. In total, customers have received more than $188 million in incentives, saved more than 168 million therms and avoided more than 893,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the emissions generated by 193,000 passenger vehicles over the course of a year.
We also are committed to helping our customers reduce their own emissions by choosing their energy source and understanding their natural gas usage. As of January, Nicor Gas has completed 2.2 million installations of state-of-the-art, two-way communication devices as part of our Meter Modernization program. These smart meters will enable customers to learn more about their patterns of use and use energy more efficiently.