2020 Natural Gas Research and Development Program Annual Report
November 09, 2020
Energy Research and Development (500)
Natural Gas Program
State policies have put California on a path to completely decarbonize its energy sector by 2045. Under SB 100, the electricity sector is expected to play a major role in achieving the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals by supplying electricity generation that is 100-percent or near 100-percent renewable. Complementing the supply-side strategy, the state has charted a path to additional deep GHG reductions by decarbonizing end uses. Some end uses can easily and cost-effectively electrify. While the path is well paved for new home construction and programs and incentives are in place to electrify light-duty vehicles, more must be done to decarbonize other end uses. Research and development to enable increased electrification is being conducted under the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC). However, significant built infrastructure now depends on natural gas, and a transition strategy is evolving and adapting. In the meantime, large GHG reductions can be made in natural gas use through increased efficiency. Other strategies to decarbonize traditional uses of natural gas include solar thermal for heating, technologies to capture and use biogas, and reduction of methane leaks from gas infrastructure. Meanwhile, the development of renewable gas use, including hydrogen, as an alternative to fossil fuel use in the transportation sector, especially medium- and heavy-duty, is an important strategy for lowering emissions and improving air quality.
A 2018 CEC-funded study* by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) examined the priority, near-term decarbonization strategies to achieve California’s 2030 and 2050 GHG-reduction goals. The study found that electrification is a promising pathway to decarbonization, but also noted that natural gas is an important fuel now and that a transition strategy is needed to guide policy and tailor research. Therefore, the natural gas public-interest research is focused on strategies to keep the aging infrastructure safe, reduce use of natural gas, and pursue development of alternatives to natural gas like green hydrogen and renewable gas. The research is conducted with a conscious commitment to equity and achieving public benefits of GHG reduction, improved air quality, safety, and affordability.