Utility Dive Quotes Seth Hilton on California’s Role as a Model for Reducing Natural Gas Reliance

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Energy attorney Seth Hilton was quoted in Utility Dive in an article titled “California’s Aliso Canyon review could offer key lessons on transition from natural gas, analysts say,” published August 10, 2021. The article discusses California’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field, which regulators are evaluating for closure or reduction in use and in doing so may be providing the state and the U.S. with valuable lessons in transitioning away from reliance on the fuel.

The natural gas storage field, which is operated by Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and has the capacity to store 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas, is important in maintaining energy reliability, especially in the L.A. Basin. However, a leak of 100,000 tons of methane prompted the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to open a proceeding in 2017 to investigate whether use of the field could be reduced or eliminated entirely.

Consultants hired by CPUC to study resources as potential replacements for Aliso Canyon are evaluating four ideas — investments in new pipeline infrastructure; gas demand-side strategies such as demand response, energy efficiency and electrification; increasing build out of renewables that California is currently envisioning under its integrated resource planning process; and adding transmission capacity to the system.

Other stakeholders, including utilities such as SoCalGas, have taken the stance that the need for and value of storage such as Aliso Canyon is increasing because the addition of renewables to the energy mix in California requires offsetting resources to address the volatility of power generated by wind, solar or hydropower.

According to Hilton, the steps that end up being taken in California, whether ultimately right or wrong, could serve as a model for other regions of the U.S. seeking to reduce their dependence on natural gas.

“It definitely could be, and probably should be [a model], if California is successful in reducing the amount of natural gas it relies on and gas storage that it needs,” he said. “It’s either a disaster and it’s a model — or it works, and it’s a model.”

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