For years, gas was seen as a bridge to the low-carbon future. But as coal power gives thanks to wind and solar as viable alternatives from an economic and environmental lens, more questions are raised about whether we are reaching the top of gas’s bridge period. Various high-profile gas safety incidents over recent years have amplified these concerns and a few policymakers are implying a future without gas is on the near horizon.
"Technology won't only have a critical role in new renewable gas production facilities but also will help grid operators balance their systems with more dynamic sources of gas than they ever have before"
Liberty Utilities believes that while our industry is due for a few changes, gas has an important role to play for the foreseeable future. As renewable gas technologies still develop, gas will remain a crucial part of the entire energy mix, even during a net carbon-neutral economy – especially as a source of low or no-carbon heat that a lot of communities need through the winter.
Technological change within the gas industry has moved at a slower pace than within the electric industry but, we’re now seeing several innovations that are critical enablers for gas as a crucial player within the smart energy future within the following areas:
Safety – Gas smart meters or safety meters that detect gas leakage or abnormal usage patterns offer the power to isolate dangerous situations while remotely informing safety personnel to require action. This technology will in fact give our customers better visibility of their usage and therefore the information to form choices that make the foremost sense to them. But the security benefits are going to be a true game-changer also because the biggest enhancement to gas safety since the scent was added to gas so as to detect leaks with our noses.
Operational Excellence – As we better insulate our homes, we will expect individual customers to be using less gas annually, putting more pressure on the overhead of running the facility. So leveraging technology and data to seek out better ways of meeting our customers’ needs in additional efficient ways goes to be a key for all gas companies as they compete for patrons who will have increased choice on where to get energy.
Renewable gas – almost like the beginnings of wind and solar renewable gas technology struggles to be competitive. But with the proper regulatory support, as volumes increase prices will come down. This is often a hugely exciting prospect because it gives a long-term future for the industry and uses for the trillions of dollars of gas infrastructure that customers have invested. Technology won't only have a critical role within these new renewable gas production facilities but also in helping grid operators balance their systems with more dynamic sources of gas than they need in the past.
So, while the gas industry goes through what some would call a psychological state, looking forward, there's a transparent path for a greener, safer and more cost-efficient facility which will still provide the vital services that customers enjoy today. That path is extremely much enabled by a technology revolution.