Southern Company Gas announced that it has taken ownership of the Meadow Branch Landfill Methane Recovery Facility, the renewable natural gas facility located at the Meadow Branch Landfill in Athens, Tenn., from sister company PowerSecure. The facility is now operated by Southern Company Gas Renewables, a new subsidiary dedicated to growing Southern Company Gas’ ability to provide customers with sustainable fuels. The company is pursuing RNG as part of Southern Company’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions enterprise-wide by 2050 and its strategy to increase access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable fuel for customers.
“This is another important step toward realizing our vision for a sustainable energy future,” said Southern Company Gas Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Public and External Affairs Officer Bryan Batson, who provides oversight of the new subsidiary. “Developing RNG to sell to customers is a practical, cost-effective method for reducing GHG emissions.”
The RNG facility at Meadow Branch captures gas produced by the landfill and upgrades it to pipeline-quality gas that can be used by any natural gas appliance or other end-user, creating a simple and cost-effective solution for customers. In 2020, the facility produced 340,000 MMBtu of RNG, enough to serve about 3,400 homes for a year. Using this instead of geologic gas avoids nearly 18,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in a year. It would require 22,000 acres of U.S. forest to abate that much carbon dioxide over the same period.
“The experience we gain operating the Meadow Branch RNG plant will give us greater ability to develop utility-owned RNG facilities throughout our footprint, helping to enable each of our subsidiaries to meet state and regional climate goals,” said Batson. “We believe RNG offers an economical path forward for reducing emissions while supporting local development and job creation.”
Assuming control of the RNG plant also enables Southern Company Gas Renewables to potentially provide RNG directly to Southern Company Gas subsidiaries’ residential, business and retail customers, as well as to Southern Company Gas’ own automotive fleet. Additionally, it may provide customers with savings, compared to purchasing RNG at market costs.
RNG and its benefits
RNG is a sustainable gas produced from naturally occurring methane emitted from sources such as landfill, agricultural or food waste sites. RNG repurposes organic waste, making it carbon-neutral when used.
RNG facilities that capture methane from landfills such as the Meadow Branch RNG facility have cross-sector environmental benefits, impacting GHG emissions from both the waste management and natural gas industries. RNG’s other benefits include:
- Emissions Abatement: Many RNG projects are carbon-negative, meaning they remove more GHG emissions from the environment than they produce.
- Waste Reduction: According to the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, solid waste is expected to grow nearly 70% by 2050. RNG can be part of a practical, near-term solution to address this growing problem, converting that waste into fuel.
- Abundance: A recent assessment by the American Gas Foundation estimated enough RNG could be produced to meet nearly all the residential natural gas demand in the United States.
- Resiliency: RNG can be locally derived, promoting energy resilience and fuel diversity while increasing the existing natural gas system’s flexibility and utilization.
Southern Company Gas’ commitment to net-zero
Southern Company Gas Renewables and its control of the Meadow Branch RNG facility are among many initiatives underway at Southern Company Gas to support global efforts to reach net-zero GHG emissions and to help customers looking to reduce their personal carbon footprint.
The company is an active participant in Our Nation’s Energy (ONE) Future, an industrywide effort to reduce methane emissions across the natural gas value chain to 1% or less by 2025. Earlier this year, Southern Company Gas and its parent company also announced its participation in a collaborative effort with six national laboratories and more than 20 partners from industry and academia addressing the technical barriers to blending hydrogen into natural gas infrastructure.
In 2019, Southern Company Gas subsidiary Georgia Natural Gas launched Greener Life, which makes it easy and affordable for customers to make their natural gas use carbon-neutral by taking care of purchasing and retiring carbon offsets on their behalf. Through the first quarter of this year, Greener Life has helped Georgians retire nearly 30 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent. In addition, Southern Company Gas’ local distribution companies offer energy efficiency programs and other resources empowering customers to meet their sustainability goals.