Growing demand for electricity generated by wind and solar power will create a greater need for natural gas infrastructure to prevent blackouts, according to the head of pipeline giant Williams Companies.

Williams CEO Alan Armstrong’s comments contradict climate policies that aim to displace fossil fuels such as natural gas from US power grids.

Clean energy sources such as wind and solar, supported by storage batteries, have fallen sharply in price and gained share of the electricity market.

But with policies aimed at increasing electricity use in cars and heavy industry also increasing the load on the grid, more pipelines will be needed to fuel gas-fired generators that can back up intermittent renewable systems, Armstrong argued.

“Nobody’s going to be comfortable saying, ‘Oh, we’re willing to risk five days of no wind or sun and no backup,'” Financial said. Times.

Williams, with a market value of $37 billion, pays to transport the gas but does not sell the fuel itself. The Oklahoma-based company operates more than 30,000 miles of pipeline, including the vast Transco system, which transports shale gas from Texas to the East Coast.

The federal Energy Information Administration predicts a jump in wind and solar power generation capacity in the coming decades, driven in part by massive clean energy subsidies signed into law by President Joe Biden. law last year as part of its commitment to halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Stanford University academics concluded last year that a combination of wind, solar and hydropower coupled with battery storage, new transmission lines and demand management could meet all of the incremental US energy needs. Their paper said this could be achieved “without power outages in variable weather across the US”.

But EIA forecasts for natural gas demand by 2050 will vary widely. The electrification of new sectors is expected to bring a significant increase in grid load by then, requiring a doubling of total generation capacity.

“It’s great to have renewables and we’ll be able to continue to reduce emissions and the amount of gas that we burn, the fossil fuels that we burn. . . but that doesn’t change the need for the increment [gas] capacity when we electrify,” Armstrong said.

The comments from the Williams boss, whose company processes about a third of the gas transported in the US, come just weeks after the Biden administration agreed to fast-track approval of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will carry shale gas from West Virginia to Virginia.

The project, developed by EQM Midstream Partners, NextEra Energy and other pipeline companies, was a “disaster” given years of delays and cost inflation, Armstrong said. But its inclusion in the recent debt ceiling agreement struck between the White House and congressional Republicans was a “powerful message” of support, he added.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm “has finally heard enough from the utilities and now she’s seen enough to realize that there’s a practical limit to how fast you can go,” Armstrong added, referring to meetings he’s held with her and utility chiefs.

The Ministry of Energy did not comment on the meeting.

Armstrong also expressed sympathy for climate activists who oppose two technologies prominent in many clean energy scenarios: hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

Environmentalists fight against hydrogen and carbon capture “for good reasons,” he said, because plants to produce hydrogen and capture CO₂ would themselves use significant amounts of electricity.

“If you throw [electricity demand] from capturing hydrogen and carbon to doing so, you will far exceed your ability to build renewables. And so you’re actually going to burn more and more fossil fuels to get hydrogen.”

Williams is involved in five so-called hydrogen hubs and said pipeline companies could benefit from new demand to transport carbon dioxide and hydrogen across the country.

“Frankly, we would benefit as much as anyone if. [hydrogen] have become a big market,” Armstrong said. “But it just doesn’t make economic sense and it doesn’t make any sense in terms of emissions.”

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