CenterPoint Energy: Pursuing a clean energy future

  • November 11, 2020
  • |
  • Brad Tutunjian

As Minnesota’s largest natural gas utility, delivering energy to more than 870,000 customers, CenterPoint Energy is committed to environmental stewardship as an integral part of our overall corporate responsibility, including support for organizations like Environmental Initiative.

Earlier this year we announced a company-wide carbon policy to reduce emissions across our multi-state operations and supply chain. Our goals (based on 2005 levels) include a 70% reduction by 2035 in operational carbon emissions and a 20-30% reduction by 2040 in emissions attributable to natural gas used by our customers.

In Minnesota, we’ve already made significant progress reducing emissions from our distribution system through infrastructure modernization and innovative technologies to prevent and detect methane leaks. For 25 years, our nation-leading Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) has also helped our customers improve their energy efficiency and limit their own carbon footprint.

CenterPoint Energy is also pursuing several major new clean energy initiatives in Minnesota.

Renewable Natural Gas

We’re working to develop Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) as a new Made-in-Minnesota energy resource – produced by capturing and recycling biogas from farms, food waste, wastewater facilities and other sources.

RNG has significant potential to reduce emissions and, depending on the source, it can even have a net negative carbon impact (taking more carbon out of the environment than it produces). By adding RNG to our system, we can diversify our gas supply away from fossil fuels while also improving waste management and supporting local economies, especially in rural areas.

We currently have a proposal at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that would allow us to accept Minnesota-made RNG into our distribution system, and we’re already in discussions with prospective RNG producers and project developers interested in this opportunity.

Green Hydrogen

We’re exploring another Made-in-Minnesota clean energy resource – “green hydrogen” produced by separating hydrogen from water using electrolysis powered by renewable electricity. Because there are no carbon emissions from either its production or end-use, green hydrogen has the potential to be an important zero-carbon alternative or supplement to conventional natural gas.

In Europe, green hydrogen projects are already attracting major public and private investments. Here in Minnesota, we plan to build a pilot demonstration project in 2021 to produce green hydrogen and blend it with the natural gas supply in our distribution system.

Natural Gas Innovation Act

Earlier this year we proposed bipartisan legislation in Minnesota that would allow us to invest further in innovative technologies to serve our customers with new clean energy options.

The Natural Gas Innovation Act would provide a natural gas utility like CenterPoint Energy with the opportunity to submit an “alternative resource plan” to the Public Utilities Commission. As part of this plan, we could provide our customers alternative fuels, such as RNG and green hydrogen, as well as new energy-efficiency and carbon-capture technologies to reduce or avoid emissions.

The Minnesota Senate passed our legislation by a wide, bipartisan margin, but the House didn’t take action before adjournment. We’re hopeful it will pass and become law in 2021.

Our gas distribution system is essential to meeting Minnesota’s energy needs. (Just consider: During the 2019 polar vortex, we supplied energy to our customers that exceeded the state’s total electric generation capacity.) Even as CenterPoint Energy pursues a clean energy future, our customers and the communities we serve can trust that we will continue delivering the reliable, affordable energy they depend on every day.