Emissions Reduction and Sustainability
in the Cards for Las Vegas' Future
Published March 17, 2020
What are some of the challenges that Southwest Gas faces during the construction boom that Southern Nevada is experiencing?
Our company is committed to attracting a diverse and talented group of Southwesters who share our values and want to make a difference in the communities we serve. With the booming economy, competition for top-talent has increased. As a company we have taken several steps to reinforce our position as a company of choice.
Recently, we implemented flexible work arrangements to provide our employees with more balance in their lives. We’ve also changed our dress code to be more casual. And, we have created a diversity and inclusion initiative to not only attract a more diverse workforce, but to ensure all voices are heard.
To help attract and develop talent, Southwest Gas partnered with the College of Southern Nevada to offer natural gas-focused courses to allow students to get a jumpstart into the energy arena. The courses are designed by industry to meet industry needs and taught by Southwest Gas employees with diverse, hands on experience and knowledge. Linking student learning to industry standards and practices ensures that students are fully prepared to enter the workforce as productive employees.
Many of the engineers at Southwest Gas are graduates of the UNLV College of Engineering, and our Foundation has partnered with the College as they begin to build a new Advanced Engineering Studies facility. This addition will help future generations of engineers in Southern Nevada, who are looking to make the world better through science, math, research, and innovation, by providing a state-of-the-art facility and resources.
"The multifamily closing likely peaked in 2017 with 4,050 units and will likely be around 3,500 annually for the next few years."
What level of year-on-year capacity growth is Southwest Gas preparing for, and at what levels do you see capacity plateauing?
SWG continues to reinforce the gas system in the NW part of town with the expectations of large master planned communities, such as Lennar’s Sunstone, moving forward. Many of the larger production builders in Las Vegas are projecting a 10%-20% upsurge in their development of lots, which only increases the workload of the SWG contractor base.
Lennar's Sunstone Community in Northwest Las Vegas.
The total single-family home permits decreased in 2019 (10,563) from 2018 (11,065). Single family home permits have been steadily increasing since 2014 and expectations are for numbers to settle in between 11,000 – 14,000 annually. The multifamily closing likely peaked in 2017 with 4,050 units and will likely be around 3,500 annually for the next few years.
As sustainability becomes a higher priority in real estate, what are some solutions that Southwest Gas is offering for developers, landlords and tenants?
Affordable, efficient and clean, natural gas offers a compelling value proposition to our customers. Commonly one of the lowest utility bills any of us pays, natural gas is 91% efficient when used as a direct source to heat our homes, cook our meal and warm our water. And, as appliances and homes become more energy efficient, our customers are using less of our product. Further, natural gas is clean accounting for only 4% of the average Nevada home’s emissions according to emissions calculators provided by the University of California, Berkley.
Renewable natural gas.
Sourced from farms, landfills, and wastewater treatment, renewable natural gas, which is carbon neutral, will further reduce emissions. Fully compatible with existing natural gas infrastructure, Southwest Gas is working to create partnerships between sources of RNG and customers who want to leverage RNG to help meet emissions reductions goals. Our company is involved in several projects throughout our service territory.
Over the last decade transportation has superseded electric generation as the number contributor of emissions in Nevada. While transportation may not be directly tied to real-estate, people’s ability to get to and from their jobs and around town makes a difference in our community. So, we have partnered with companies like RTC and Republic Services to provide compressed natural gas for their fleets. CNG burns cleaner than diesel, produces no visible smoke and is quieter. This makes a major difference for our environment. In 2019, CNG provided by Southwest Gas to our customers displaced 11.7 million gallons of diesel from Southern Nevada fleets. That’s equivalent to taking almost 7,300 cars off the road.
SWG understands the impact and importance of promoting and supporting energy efficiency programs. There are various rebate programs that are available to both productions builders AND to homeowners/tenants. Builders can take advantage of a tankless water heater rebate of $225 per qualifying model installed per home. Additionally, there are various rebates for commercially installed heating and cooking models. Homeowners and tenants can also take advantage of the $225 per qualifying tankless water heater installed OR up rebates on up to 30% of the costs for installation of solar water heating.
"We pursue a sustainable energy future through renewable natural gas, compressed natural gas and energy efficiency programs."
With an inevitable growth into undeveloped desert land, what is Southwest Gas doing to ensure that they can service these outlying areas?
A lot has changed in Las Vegas since Southwest Gas began serving the area -- including the arrival of more than 2 million people. As Las Vegas has grown, we’ve grown, but our commitment to customer service and safety continues to drive everything we do.
The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) is a regulatory agency that ensures investor-owned utilities comply with laws enacted by the Nevada Legislature.
SWG extends facilities based on accordance with Rule No. 9 of the Nevada Gas Tariff. The length of facilities extension is considered along the shortest practical available route. If providing natural gas service to an outlying area would impair service to existing customers, the cost of the necessary reinforcement to eliminate such impairment may be absorbed as system improvement by SWG.
In 2015, SB 151 was approved by the Legislature to address an issue that prevented SWG’s ability to extend service to unserved or underserved areas of the state. The bill accomplished two things: 1) Allowed the PUCN to apply a balanced and equitable approach in the review and approval of projects. 2) Provided the PUCN with the flexibility, discretion, and authority to consider alternative cost recover based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the individual projects.
Subsequent to the passage of SB 151, the PUCN initiated a rulemaking to develop the administrative process that a natural gas utility would use to file and application to expand natural gas infrastructure.
As a natural gas supplier, what major changes do you see across the Las Vegas valley?
While our community has grown, we have never lost our pioneering spirit, while coming closer together and increasing our unique sense of community. We see this reflected in our employees who contributed nearly $1.1 million to local nonprofits in 2019. A record 78% of employees contributed.
As we have discussed, a focus on being more sustainable is also a change we have seen in Southern Nevada. Through sustainable business practices, we steward our natural resources to reduce carbon emissions. We pursue a sustainable energy future through renewable natural gas, compressed natural gas and energy efficiency programs. We are working towards a 20% GHG reduction from our utility operations’ fleet and buildings by 2025.
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