Environmental

Our dedication to protecting and improving the environment and fostering a sustainable energy future is one that is shared by both our customers and employees alike.

Environmental

Supporting the Energy Transition

 
We supply customers with affordable, reliable and cleaner-burning energy from natural gas. In the United States, natural gas has played an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by displacing coal used to generate electricity. According to IEA data, natural gas emits considerably less greenhouse gas emissions than coal when used to generate electricity.*
 
Further, natural gas plays an essential role in supporting renewable energy development by offering an energy source that quickly compensates for power supply and demand variability.
 
With the oversight of and guidance from our Board and management, we are taking additional, proactive measures to help communities achieve their emissions reduction goals and to manage relevant climate change risks in its operations. These measures include:
 
  • Delivering lower-carbon fuels to our communities, including compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG).
  • Partnering with Arizona State University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on hydrogen blending and creation projects.
  • Investing in methane emissions-capture systems.
  • Investing in the integrity of and preventing excavation damages to our infrastructure.
  • Switching our fleet to CNG.
  • Investing in energy-efficient technologies and renewable energies to power our buildings.
  • Developing and promoting customer energy-efficiency programs.
 
More information about each of these strategic climate change initiatives is provided in our 2021 sustainability report
 
*The Role of Gas in Today’s Energy Transition, IEA 2019

Reducing GHG Emissions

We take pride in our dedication to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for current and future generations through deliberate efforts with enduring impacts. As we continue implementing effective GHG-reduction strategies throughout our Company, we are also introducing new technologies to help achieve a lower carbon footprint.
 
In early 2021, we expanded our efforts by beginning a critical evaluation of the pathways to attaining shared emissions-reduction goals in the communities we serve. To reach these goals, reliable and complementary low-carbon fuels like compressed natural gas (CNG), renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen are integral in meeting the area’s growing energy needs.
 
Since its inception, Southwest Gas’ pilot program for aluminum-bodied CNG service vehicles has received positive operator feedback, proving reliable across our three-state service territory. The success of this program has led us to order additional aluminum-bodied CNG service vehicles for use throughout our service territory. By the end of 2021, we expect CNG vehicles to total approximately 20% of our fleet. In Central and Southern Arizona, we have equipped local operations centers with CNG fueling stations to serve our growing fleet. In 2021, we are delighted to have added a new CNG fueling station for Southwest Gas vehicles in Victorville, California. We will be adding another in Southern Nevada, with expected completion in early 2022.
 
We continue to apply high-efficiency best practices by installing LED lighting and energy monitoring systems in an ongoing effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our building facilities. These measures also include installing solar panels and adopting emerging renewable energy technologies where feasible. In 2020, we acquired a LEED Silver® facility as part of our new Las Vegas headquarters with the planned pursuit of similar certification for other buildings.
   

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)


The benefits of CNG extend beyond its use for our Company fleets. Because CNG is a cleaner and often more affordable fuel source, large fleet customers look to it as a sustainable solution for reducing their organization’s impact while maintaining equipment integrity. In 2020, Southwest Gas delivered 31.8 million therms to Arizona, California and Nevada customers, an impressive number considering the pandemic. By using CNG over other fuels, our CNG customers saved more than 67,000 MTCO2e in 2020, the equivalent of removing over 14,700 passenger vehicles from the road for a year.
 
CNG Truck
CNG
  

 
Cogeneration

Cogeneration

One of today’s most practical applications for increasing resiliency with natural gas is generating energy on-site for high-energy use buildings with microgrids. Using natural gas as part of a building’s critical energy mix allows customers to reuse otherwise wasted energy and return it to the facility’s energy supply. This mindful reuse of energy through cogeneration reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while keeping energy costs affordable.

The newly opened Resorts World Las Vegas is one example of how Southwest Gas’ commercial customers can lower emissions while increasing resiliency. Here, the luxury hotel added four 1 MW natural gas turbines for their facility. Its cogeneration system provides affordable heat to the site’s hot water loop, efficiently heating the building, pools and domestic water. We recently installed a new meter set to serve the facility with over 2 million therms of natural gas per year.

 

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)


Like power obtained from wind and solar, RNG is an energy source harvested from landfills, dairy farms and wastewater treatment facilities. When organic products break down at these facilities, they naturally emit methane, which either rises into the atmosphere or is flared off on-site. Instead of allowing the methane to escape or flaring it off, facilities can produce RNG by capturing and processing it to meet pipeline-quality standards. Utilities can then deliver this energy through existing natural gas pipelines to fuel businesses and homes. One main advantage of RNG is that natural gas customers can continue using their existing appliances to reap further environmental benefits. The innovative use of this energy can help businesses, communities and the transportation industry meet their emissions-reduction goals with carbon-neutral solutions.

In 2021, Southwest Gas received approval to supply the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada with RNG to fuel their fleet of busses. This partnership will allow the RTC to continue meeting their carbon footprint reduction efforts without sacrificing the range or performance their customers depend on. It will also enable the RTC to keep more busses in operation while minimizing downtime for refueling.
 
RNG
 
2021 marked a monumental year for Southwest Gas by announcing four interconnect projects in Arizona, including three dairies and the Tres Ríos Water Reclamation Facility in Tucson. Along with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority in California, these five projects will produce over 10 million therms of RNG that can be delivered to homes and businesses. We project all five facilities to be fully operational by the end of 2022, with the earliest — Tres Ríos — already in operation as of September 2021. In addition to this progress, Southwest Gas also received approval to purchase RNG as part of its gas portfolio in 2021.
 
As part of our continuing efforts to deepen the environmental benefits of RNG projects, we proceed to identify new opportunities to introduce low-carbon fuels to customers.

Hydrogen

Over the last decade, innovation within the gas energy space has been exciting and shows no sign of slowing down. As the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen’s potential as an alternative energy source is highly encouraging. Including hydrogen in our nation’s mix of energy solutions will help drive the creation of a hydrogen economy and lower emissions while generating electricity, fueling transportation and storing excess renewable energy. It can also aid in reducing the carbon footprint of various industrial processes. Gas infrastructure also plays a critical role in storing hydrogen, keeping efficiency high by ensuring excess green energy does not go to waste. Studies demonstrate that in specific blends, much like renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen can power existing infrastructure and appliances in use today. Multiple utilities, including Southwest Gas, continue to collaborate on a joint effort to create an injection standard to work toward bringing hydrogen use from concept to practice.
 
Further, Southwest Gas is partnering with Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on two hydrogen blending pilot programs. These pilots are exciting new territory for us, soon demonstrating the blending at our emergency response facilities located in Tempe and Las Vegas. These two programs will test blending up to 20% hydrogen with natural gas, establishing a proof of concept for residential and industrial applications. If proven viable, our efforts can help position us as a leader in the emerging hydrogen market.
 
Hydrogen
 
 

Resilience

In January 2021, the American Gas Foundation (AGF) published a study highlighting the critical role natural gas infrastructure plays in our resilient domestic energy system. Here, America’s reliable natural gas system also shields customers from disruptions resulting from unlikely high-impact events. As the report indicates, conversations with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders must include the natural gas system’s role in securing America’s resilient energy future.

In February 2021, as production facilities faced widespread shortages resulting from winter storm Uri, Southwest Gas’ Arizona customers were faced with potentially negative impacts. Fortunately, in 2019, we placed a new liquified natural gas (LNG) facility into service as a backup supply source for the Tucson area, protecting against such supply disruptions. The facility, which can hold approximately 2.7 million gallons of usable LNG, saved Southwest Gas customers approximately $1.5 million over two days during the winter storm event.

Investments in the gas system like the Tucson LNG plant are further evidence of the effectiveness and the speed at which gas utilities are able to respond to incidents that would otherwise disrupt supply and service to consumers.
 

Integrity Management

The safety and integrity of our infrastructure are top priorities for our daily operations. In support of these efforts, Southwest Gas stringently follows the specifications in our operations manual to perform scheduled maintenance of our systems and facilities. Accordingly, our Distribution and Transmission Integrity Management Programs (DIMP and TRIMP, respectively) dictate the implementation of these plans per U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) requirements. Southwest Gas performs accelerated leak detection activities which help to find and repair leaks more frequently. We also perform proactive pipe replacement as part of our monitoring and management of aging infrastructure. Throughout our operations, constant collaboration with regulators and stakeholders is paramount in achieving successful outcomes.
 
Southwest Gas continues to replace Early Vintage Plastic Pipe (EVPP) — identified as ABS, Aldyl-A, Aldyl-HD and PVC — with a remaining inventory of 722 miles at the end of 2020. Replacement efforts are essential in our overall leak-mitigation strategy, which reduces unintentional releases from infrastructure that may be prone to degradation. Additionally, Southwest Gas received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a targeted pipe-replacement program based on the risk-informed methodology required by the state. While there is no immediate safety concern, our proactive replacement of aging infrastructure avoids unnecessary risk while continuing to operate as a reliable energy provider.
 
Miles of Pipe
Integrity Management
 
Another recent CPUC approval is helping ensure the integrity of Southwest Gas’ pipeline system that serves California schools. In these locations, we prioritize replacing any underground piping extending beyond our meters to where the schools consume gas — a section of piping often referred to as a customer-owned yard line (COYL). We will offer to relocate the meter and replace the COYL with facilities adjacent to the school. This School COYL Replacement program ensures that Southwest Gas and its contractors can perform proper maintenance and identify potential leaks through standardized practices.
 
Southwest Gas seeks approval for a similar COYL program in Nevada to replace residential and public school COYLs, which may include those discovered at nonprofit or other publicly funded facilities. In Arizona, regulators have approved COYL relocations when a customer's line is found to be leaking or if we are performing other pipe replacement in the area. These programs demonstrate the importance of working collaboratively with regulators to ensure safe practices are being maintained.
 
One measurement of our environmental programs comes through compliance with mandatory and voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting and disclosures. To ensure data accuracy, we begin each year by conducting an internal review and verification process for the prior year. In 2020, Southwest Gas took the additional step of partnering with a third-party verifier to confirm that these processes follow the industry-accepted protocols of our reporting. Subsequently, the report found that the verifier could reasonably assure the data, collection process and reporting meet its standards. Verifications like these help instill confidence in the management and disclosure of information and our commitment to stakeholders.

Natural Gas Technology

In 2021, Southwest Gas began testing new methane emissions-capture systems in its Northern Nevada and Central Arizona divisions. The equipment provides zero-emissions gas transfer solutions between in-service gas lines or external containers. This responsible gas recovery technology allows Operations to minimize our carbon footprint while repurposing gas for alternative uses, like fueling compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. Though further testing and preparation are required, we are excited about the prospect of using innovative technology to minimize our environmental footprint.
CNG Truck

Energy Efficiency

Southwest Gas encourages customers to reduce their emissions and carbon footprint by proposing various energy-efficiency programs to state commissions that review each program for approval. With direct-use natural gas appliances already being highly efficient — over 90% from production to appliance — these programs further support customers’ mindful energy use through commission-approved rebates and weatherization improvements.
 
Over the last five years, Southwest Gas customers who have taken advantage of these programs have helped reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly 89,000 MTCO2e. These savings demonstrate the urgent need for regulators and policymakers to approve the expansion of energy-efficiency programs — a critical tool in reducing overall GHG emissions nationwide.
 
Energy Efficiency *Between 2016-2020 using Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator
 
Southwest Gas’ Energy Savings Portal — now available to all residential customers — allows customers to compare their monthly bills, benchmark with similar homes, take a home energy analysis and find energy-savings tips and rebate information. Additionally, select customers in our service territory receive an electronic Home Energy Report by email. Others may request an energy-efficiency kit after completing an online home energy analysis.
 
In March 2021, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved Southwest Gas’ 2021-2025 Gas Conservation and Energy Efficiency Program for California Customers. In addition to the program allowing us to continue offering existing rebates, it expands program offerings to include residential equipment direct-install rebates, as well as new home and solar thermal rebates.
 
In October 2021, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) issued an Order approving the continuation of Southwest Gas’ conservation and energy-efficiency programs in the state. In Arizona, Southwest continues to offer its approved residential, commercial and low-income energy-efficiency programs. The utility’s application for approval to expand upon those programs is pending before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).
 

Damage Prevention

Excavation damages remain one of the leading causes of hazardous leaks on our system, resulting in preventable releases of gas to the atmosphere. In addition to our operational efforts to prevent excavation damages, community stakeholders must also continue to do their part to help keep energy infrastructure free of damages. As a result, our outreach efforts include education campaigns for all excavators — from contractors to homeowners. Partnerships with organizations like the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), state One Call 811 programs and others help us achieve minimal damage or interruption of our systems. Southwest Gas remains a long-standing member of the EPA Methane Challenge program with a focus on preventing excavation damages. Mitigating accidental releases of gas into the atmosphere continues to be a high priority for our Company.
 
We also participate in CGA’s Next Practices Initiative with executive representation from Southwest Gas on the advisory committee. This initiative — which published a report in February 2021 — seeks to identify and encourage implementing new or improved solutions to help reduce damages to utility-sector infrastructure. Participating in these nationwide initiatives allows us to learn and contribute to ongoing discussions on effective processes. Southwest Gas has contributed to these conversations through a case study on the implementation of best value contracts. These multi-tiered agreements provide financial and performance-based accountability and incentives for contractors when services are performed within a defined timeframe while minimizing any on-site damages. Ultimately, these contracts benefit everyone by safely providing quality services while encouraging better protection of utility infrastructure.
811 Award

Call Before You Dig


  

Information Technology


As we evaluate and implement new technology solutions, our goal is to continue providing the quality care our customers have come to expect from us. New cloud-based systems have provided an opportunity to replace aging hardware with more efficient services. Since the initial wave of the pandemic, our technology team has successfully supported employees transitioning to modified or remote work environments. Where possible, employees are now issued laptops instead of desktops to avoid redundancies and provide more flexibility.
 
We are also finding technology solutions beyond our facilities. As a large utility, we require multiple data centers throughout our service territory, which are as critical to our success as our field operations equipment. In 2020, Southwest Gas was awarded a sustainability certificate for using 100% renewable energy to support our work within the ecosystem of one of our largest data center partners. The certificate indicates the retirement of solar and hydroelectric renewable energy credits on Southwest Gas’ behalf, making our energy consumption with that data center partner 100% green.
 
Information Tech