The story behind 'use less, offset the rest'
By Bill Edmonds
Three years ago NW Natural launched Smart Energy, a voluntary offset program that promised to help our customers reduce their carbon footprint and bring biogas to the region. The program has been successful in helping customers reach carbon-reduction goals, while assisting dairies in turning cow waste into a renewable fuel.
Our customers wanted help in managing carbon emissions. While offsetting carbon emissions is noble, we believe that nothing can substitute the wise use of energy through efficient appliances and conservation. Our motto is "use less, offset the rest" and our customers have embraced that approach.
Through a partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon, we've assisted customers in saving 34.3 million therms of natural gas from 2003 through the end of 2009. That’s enough energy to heat nearly 68,000 homes.
Where conservation leaves off, Smart Energy picks up allowing residential and commercial customers to offset the carbon emissions associated with their natural gas use. So far, customers have joined us in offsetting 74,000 tons of carbon — about the equivalent of taking 13,000 cars off the road.
NW Natural partners with The Climate Trust in offering Smart Energy to our customers. The Climate Trust is a local nonprofit and is nationally respected for developing high quality offset projects. Smart Energy funds have helped fund three regional biodigesters – two in Washington and one in Oregon. We’ve learned through these projects that reducing carbon emissions requires innovation as well as continued private and public collaboration.
An example is a dairy in Washington with 2,200 cows. Previously the farm scraped manure into uncovered lagoons, which generated methane – a greenhouse gas that is 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide when released it into the atmosphere.
Bill Edmonds is Northwest Natural's director of environmental management and sustainability. His last column was on natural gas as a complement to renewable energy.
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