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Duke Energy seeks net-zero methane by 2030

Duke Energy seeks net-zero methane by 2030
© Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A major energy company is seeking to reach net-zero methane emissions by 2030 in its gas business. 

Duke Energy, which provides energy in the South and Midwest, hopes that methane emissions from its natural gas operations will be net-zero at that time.

Net-zero emissions does not mean that there won’t be any emissions, but rather that companies may try to limit emissions, and the impacts of those that remain may be offset by environmental projects.

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As part of an overall net-zero strategy by 2050, the company released a plan stating that it intends 49 percent of its energy to be coming from natural gas in 2030. It will also aim to have 20 percent coming from renewables and 12 percent from coal. 

Methane is the main component of natural gas, but other gases like carbon dioxide may also be emitted and the net-zero methane goal does not apply to those other gases. Methane is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide. 

The strategy for getting to net-zero methane involves using new technology to improve monitoring emissions and carrying out damage-prevention initiatives to reduce accidental leaks. 

Although some of the initiatives are based on new technologies and pilot programs, Duke’s senior vice president for natural gas Sasha Weintraub expressed optimism that they would be successful. 

“The technology is developing fast,” he said. “The fact that there’s satellites now focused on methane detection is relatively new. I think they’ll get better and better over the next decade. We’re pretty confident that the technology’s going to be there to allow us to get to a net zero goal.”

Duke also funds forestry or agriculture projects to try to offset the remaining emissions. Weintraub said that he hopes that the majority of the effort will be based on emissions reductions rather than offsets. 

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He said the company would try to drive emissions reductions “as much as we can,” but added that “there will always be some remainder just by the nature of having a pipeline system” that would need to be tackled with offsets. 

Advocates tout natural gas as a cleaner solution than other fossil fuels because burning it emits less carbon. However, many environmentalists oppose its usage because its emissions still contribute to climate change. 

In response to Duke’s announcement, Dave Rogers, Southeast deputy regional campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, criticized the company’s continued reliance on gas. 

“Making these changes will further cement Duke’s dependence on gas, which is a dangerous fossil fuel that is not, and never will be, clean or renewable. Duke should not be praised for a plan that further endangers our climate, health, safety, and economy," Rogers said. "Instead it should make a plan to phase gas out and use those savings to meet its own clean energy goals."