The Role of Natural Gas as Part of Idaho’s Energy Future
Intermountain Gas Company is a natural gas distribution company serving more than 402,300 customers in 74 communities in southern Idaho. We are proud to provide our customers with safe, reliable, competitively priced, and environmentally responsible energy service.
Intermountain is committed to meeting the evolving needs of our customers. With over three decades of partnership with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), we are proud of our ongoing efforts to provide industry with technologies that advance both safety and environmental excellence.
According to the Northwest Gas Association, the natural gas industry has long been a partner in environmental sustainability. Methane emissions rates associated with natural gas production have declined continuously since 1990 and today are just 1%. Natural gas distribution systems likewise emit less than 0.1% of produced natural gas annually, decreasing emissions 73% between 1990 and 2017 even as our industry experienced a 50% increase in natural gas production.
Natural Gas is Important both Domestically and Internationally
Natural gas remains the cleanest option to meeting our region’s peak energy demand. It provides critical value in balancing the electric grid as intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar comes onto the system. When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, natural gas is still available to meet the growing electricity demands of our region. And we can do so in an increasingly efficient and low carbon manner through a combination of energy efficiency and integration of renewable natural gas (RNG).
At an international level, natural gas remains essential in ensuring energy security across Europe. In Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia, natural gas utilities have made significant strides in the decarbonization of the natural gas system. Today, renewable natural gas from the wastewater and agricultural sectors in Denmark comprise 26% of total gas used, with a goal of 100% RNG by 2034. A hydrogen hub connecting Denmark and Germany is now under development. Such advances ensure that natural gas is put to its highest and best use, while supporting energy security and industry.
The natural gas industry, and the industries dependent on it, also play an essential role in the US economy. In Idaho, natural gas provides skilled careers for pipefitters, chemical workers, HVAC, and water heating contractors. It’s also a key ingredient in manufacturing a wide variety of products— including pharmaceuticals, plastics, steel, and synthetic fabrics.
Idaho’s farmers rely on fertilizers made with natural gas. They also depend on natural gas for its affordability and reliability for heating even during a power outage. Without this clean burning and reliable energy source, many products would not be produced, or would become more expensive, fewer jobs would be available, and Idaho would experience increases to the cost of many goods and services. That is why continued energy choice is so important in our state.
Response to the Fluctuating Cost of Energy
Intermountain does not earn a profit from the cost of natural gas. Each year, our utility makes a best possible projection of what gas costs will be for the coming year. If there is a difference in what we spend on gas costs and what was planned, then we file a Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) to either credit or recoup the difference.
The Safety of Natural Gas
Intermountain uses the latest technology, security, and industry practices to monitor pipelines, and maintain service and safety. We implement many programs to ensure your safety: 24/7 design and construction monitoring; integrity management; inspection and patrol; public safety outreach; and communication/training with emergency officials.
The health and safety of our communities is a fundamental value of our company. That’s why we have consistently advocated for proper installation and ventilation of all natural gas equipment. We also intend to support the needs of our customers and communities, and continue to meet or exceed all environmental laws and requirements.
Natural Gas and Indoor Air Quality
A Gas Technology Institute Special Report released in Fall of 2022 tested the emissions resulting from cooking with different fuel sources and concluded that “cooking emissions were more a function of the cooking vessel and food product cooked than energy source.”
An international study of data collected from more than 500,000 children in 47 countries has previously demonstrated no link between natural gas stoves and childhood asthma.
While natural gas is safe for use in homes and buildings, health and safety risks can be mitigated through proper maintenance and operation of gas-fired appliances. Intermountain recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors in buildings with gas equipment, and an exhaust for all electric and natural gas ranges, cooktops and ovens to eliminate the normal byproducts of cooking such as steam, smoke, grease and heat.
More information on natural gas safety and cooking can be found at: Cooking with Gas: Indoor Air Quality and Residential Gas Ranges – American Gas Association (aga.org) and at Is Natural Gas Cooking Safe? – Intermountain Gas Company (intgas.com).
Electrification Movement in Idaho
Unfortunately, some environmental interests have decided to pick specific fuels and technologies to advance while ignoring the value and benefits of others. These “electrification” proponents have coordinated with local governments and municipalities to encourage policy that limits the use of natural gas. This is especially concerning in colder climates like Idaho where certain electric technologies, like air-source heat pumps, have reduced operational capacity under cold weather conditions. Some local restrictions on the use of natural gas in City buildings have already taken effect as part of Boise’s 2035 Energy Future Plan. While this is concerning, Intermountain believes we can still serve as an effective partner in reliability, resilience, and environmental steward to our customers and communities.
Intermountain is Supporting a Low Carbon Future
Our decades of partnership with GTI and their Operations Technology and Utilization Technology Development (OTD & UTD) teams have helped advance gas heat pump technologies as well as next generation combined heat and power systems leveraging the resiliency, reliability, and economy of gaseous fuels. This includes gas quality sensors for RNG to ensure pipeline grade quality for this fuel, and to preserve the integrity of end-use systems.
We look forward to continuing to partner on these efforts as well as with the North American Gas Heat Pump Collaborative, which seeks to transform the market to state-of-the-art natural gas heat pump technologies. Such opportunities can be leveraged to benefit of our communities as we strive toward deeper efficiency and net zero energy (NZE) buildings.
Intermountain’s Energy Efficiency Achievements
Since 2018 we have provided rebates to our residential and commercial customers for the purchase of energy efficient equipment and upgrades. During this time, we have processed over 15,000 applications across our service area and issued about $11.7 million in rebates. As a result, Intermountain customers have saved more than 1.5 million therms, or enough energy to serve over 1,000 homes annually.
Intermountain is also recognized as a leader driving energy efficient residential construction across our service area, receiving the 2021 ENERGY STAR ® Market Leader Award. We look forward to continuing these important efforts.
Intermountain’s Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Achievements
As of April 2021, Intermountain’s pipelines transported more than 480,000 dekatherms of RNG from three dairy digesters to end-use customers— or enough to serve 14,000 homes for a year. We look forward to adding more RNG into our system as it becomes available.
The Impact of Federal Policies and Grants on Natural Gas
The Importance of Energy Choice
How the Public Can Support Energy Choice
Whether for or against continued energy choice and the use of natural gas as a decarbonization solution, it’s important that all voices are heard regarding our state’s energy future.
Get directly involved in preserving your energy choice through www.nwenergychoice.org.