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U.S. Pipeline Giant: Energy Transition Will Need More Natural Gas Infrastructure

U.S. natural gas infrastructure will have to expand so that gas can serve as a backup power generation fuel amid soaring wind and solar capacity in the energy transition, says the chief executive of the pipeline giant handling one-third of U.S. gas deliveries.

Natural gas will continue to be needed to prevent blackouts if weather is not cooperative with renewable power generation, Williams’s CEO Alan Armstrong told the Financial Times.  

“Nobody’s ever going to be comfortable saying: ‘Oh, we’re willing to risk that for five days, we don’t have wind or solar and we’re not going to have a back-up’,” Armstrong told FT.

As the number of electric vehicles (EVs) rises and the “electrify everything” drive increases, power grids will need more flexibility amid surging intermittent sources such as wind and solar power. That’s why natural gas will play a role in the shift to cleaner energy, the top executive of the pipeline giant said.

The U.S. Administration, on the other hand, is looking to make the grid zero-emissions by 2035.  

Last year, natural gas accounted for 39.8% of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation, the largest share of any source, followed by coal at 19.5%, nuclear at 18.2%, and wind at 10.2%. In total, about 60% of all U.S. electricity generation was from fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases. About 18% was from nuclear energy, and about 22% was from renewable energy sources including hydropower, EIA data showed.

During the quarterly Q1 call with Wall Street analysts last month, Williams’s Armstrong said that access to abundant and low-cost natural gas reserves depends on having the appropriate infrastructure to move energy when and where it is needed.

“We are seeing and feeling today the impacts of inadequate infrastructure with consumers bearing the brunt of these actions in the form of high utility bills, unnecessary blackouts and energy-driven inflation,” Armstrong told analysts.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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