Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) today announced the utility was awarded $1.7 million in funding from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) for two projects to reduce emissions in residential and commercial buildings. The funding will support a commercial water heating incentive program that provides rebates to distributors selling ultra-low emission water heaters. The award will also be used to build a 1.5 kilowatt fuel cell in a new, mixed fuel, zero-net-energy home that will demonstrate how renewable energy and natural gas can work together to reduce emissions at the lowest cost for the homeowner. The money is part of a $61 million funding pool for projects that will reduce stationary and mobile source emissions in the Los Angeles Basin.
"We are continuously working to find innovative ways to reduce emissions and provide our customers with equipment that helps to keep their energy bills affordable," said Sharon Tomkins, vice president of customer solutions and strategy for SoCalGas. "Curbing California`s emissions requires cooperation from all sectors - policymakers, businesses and consumers, and this AQMD program is a prime example of what can be achieved when we all work together."
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), residential and commercial buildings account for about 12 percent of the state`s greenhouse gas emissions. SoCalGas is a leader in the research and development of new technologies that increase energy efficiency, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and keeps bills affordable for customers. In the last five years alone, SoCalGas energy efficiency programs have saved more than 146 million therms, enough to power 326,000 households a year, and have reduced emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 165,000 passenger cars off the road.
In this latest round of funding, the AQMD awarded $1.2 million to SoCalGas` midstream commercial water heating incentive program. The funds will be used to provide rebates to distributors selling ultra-low emission commercial water heaters and will result in lower costs for customers who purchase the energy saving water heaters. Through this program SoCalGas aims to deploy about 1,000 ultra-low emission commercial water heating boilers, space heating boilers and tankless water heaters across its service territory.
SoCalGas was also awarded close to $500,000 for a residential fuel cell and solar power storage demonstration project. The utility is working with a homebuilder to install a 1.5 kilowatt (kW) fuel cell in a new, mixed fuel, zero-net-energy home located within SoCalGas service territory. A solar PV and battery storage system will also be installed as part of this project. The combined fuel cell, solar PV and battery storage system will be used to provide electricity and water heating for the home. One goal of this project, besides reducing emissions, is to learn more about how renewable energy and natural gas can work together at optimal performance to reduce emissions at the lowest cost for the homeowner. SoCalGas will evaluate these results after one year of use.
In addition to receiving funding for two of the company`s projects, SoCalGas supported BioFuels Energy with its fuel cell power generation system at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., which was also awarded AQMD funding. Once the project is completed and fully operational it will reduce CO2 emissions by 885 metric tons a year and smog-forming NOx emissions by nearly 4 metric tons a year.
"The emissions savings from a project of this nature will be especially beneficial to the Long Beach area as we all look for ways to curb pollution, particularly from the port complex," said Ken Frisbie, managing director for BioFuels Energy. "We are thankful for the support SoCalGas provided us on this project and look forward to future collaborations."
The utility`s research and development team also played an instrumental role in at least five other projects that were awarded funding. The projects range from low-NOx cooking and heating equipment to renewable hydrogen production.
Projects like the ones being funded by the AQMD are just one of the many ways SoCalGas is working to reduce emissions. Recently, the company participated in a demonstration of a new ultra-low NOx furnace developed by Rheem that reduces smog forming emissions by 65 percent. In late-2016, SoCalGas also became the first natural gas utility to institute a demand response program to help customers save energy and money on their winter bills. SoCalGas aims to sign up 50,000 customers to its Smart Thermostat Program this winter.
In Southern California, natural gas is the most affordable and reliable option for water heating, cooking and space heating. More than 90 percent of residents use natural gas to heat their home and hot water and Californians prefer natural gas for heating and cooking by a margin of 5 to 1 because it is more affordable and reliable than electricity for those uses.
SoCalGas is also working to curb emissions by increasing the production and use of renewable natural gas, which turns waste from dairies, farms, wastewater and landfills, into a source of clean and renewable energy to fuel homes and businesses.
A recent study by Navigant Consulting demonstrates that by increasing the delivery of renewable natural gas, California can reach its emission reductions targets in the building sector without costly mandates and without sacrificing consumers` preference for affordable natural gas. The study, released earlier this year, shows that California could achieve emissions reductions equal to electrifying the entire building sector by replacing less than 20 percent of our traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas (RNG) sourced from dairies, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Moreover, the study showed that pursuing renewable gas as a strategy to reduce emissions is two to three times more cost effective than mandates requiring electric only energy.
A recent poll by the California Building Industry Association found that only 10 percent of voters would consider purchasing an all-electric home and 80 percent oppose laws that would take away their natural gas appliances.
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