The national capital region is a living, breathing showcase for our country’s finest institutions and ideals. Our monuments and museums are living history. Our government buildings are where visitors can witness the world’s most celebrated democracy in action. We are home to a bevy of professional sports and world-class entertainment. And nature thrives along our rivers and streams, our walkways and trails — in Kenilworth Gardens, the National Zoo, the National Arboretum, and a host of other local parks and recreation areas.
But this has not always been the case. Back in 1848, the year that the Washington Gas Light Company was granted its charter by the United States Congress, the capital was a far different place. It was said that, “citizens preferred to stay home at night rather than walk along the unlighted and unpaved streets which were obstructed with mud holes.”
During the first session of the Thirtieth Congress, the Senate, House of Representatives and President James K. Polk signed the bill to pass the Washington Gas Light Company. That was just four days after the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid and, like that familiar symbol of Washington, D.C., we have also grown and reached impressive heights.
Our company has been in business for nearly 170 years; and we have evolved through that time as our communities’ energy needs and sources have changed. WGL Energy was the first supplier in the Mid-Atlantic region to offer wind power options to our customers. In 2010, WGL Energy began offering WGES CleanSteps® carbon offsets, a first-of-its-kind initiative, to provide customers with the option of matching carbon offsets to their natural gas consumption.
Today, we continue our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and to help our customers do the same, while also saving money. Having already reduced carbon emissions from our fleet and facilities by 74 percent since 2008, we are now setting a new, similarly aggressive target for 2025. Likewise, we continue to reduce the carbon intensity of the gas we deliver to our customers. Since 2008, we have been able to reduce carbon equivalent emissions associated with each unit of natural gas delivered to our customers by 20 percent. This was, in large part, thanks to our accelerated efforts to update our pipelines with new, modern materials that enhance the reliability of our delivery, as well as resilience in the event of bad weather, flooding or other crises.
Going forward, we plan to continue these efforts. We have recently established new sustainability targets for 2025. We propose to achieve carbon neutral fleet and facilities operations; reduce fugitive emission intensity of our natural gas distribution system by 38% from our 2008 baseline; and help our customers avoid 18 million tons of GHG emissions.
A visible demonstration of this effort is our 200-plus natural gas powered vehicles deployed throughout our service area. These cars and trucks use clean burning natural gas and produce 20 to 29 percent fewer carbon equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when compared with conventional gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. These clean burning engines virtually eliminate the emissions of particulate matter into the air, thereby reducing the air pollution and “ozone alert” days that cause serious health issues, such as asthma and respiratory distress.
WGL Energy empowers commercial and residential customers by offering ways to improve their energy efficiency, as well as choose clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar generated electricity, highly efficient combined heat and power installations, and carbon offsets. We understand there are a lot of choices, so our experts work closely with large and small customers to customize energy plans that meet their objectives and needs.
The crucial role that energy plays in sustainable development was recognized by the United Nations. This is why ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG#7). Indeed, the vital importance of energy in improving health, industrialization and combating climate change cannot be overstated. And while tremendous progress has been made, we have never rested on our laurels. Today, we are exploring new ideas, like biogas (renewable natural gas) for our fleet, as well as other fleets in the area, and expanded use of clean, distributed energy projects.
We hope that our efforts to provide safe, reliable, sustainable energy will continue undiminished for another 170 years — when we will undoubtedly be serving a very different Washington, D.C. region yet again.