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Piedmont Natural Gas outlines plan to reduce emissions

Piedmont Natural Gas has set a goal of reducing its carbon footprint 5 percent by 2017, according to its latest sustainability report.

Piedmont, based in Charlotte, has roughly 1 million customers in North and South Carolina and Tennessee. In the report, released Wednesday, the company said it has already taken steps to reduce emissions, such as converting 14 percent of its fleet vehicles to natural gas.

The company said it plans to decrease its emissions primarily through converting more of its vehicles to natural gas and by cutting back on electricity usage in its facilities.

The sustainability reports are issued every two years, with the first in 2011. George Baldwin, who oversees Piedmont’s sustainable initiatives, told the Observer on Wednesday the company didn’t have a “formal sustainability direction” until 2010.

In creating the program, Piedmont first had to define what sustainability meant to the company, he said. It was determined the program should be based on three areas: economic, environmental and social stewardship.

Baldwin said Piedmont considers being sustainable as making economic decisions that “are not only focused on the next quarter.”

“They’re focused on the long run,” he said. “And we think that adds value to our organization.”

The company said it has roughly 950 fleet vehicles and is working to convert some of them to natural gas. At the end of 2011, the company had 52 vehicles running off compressed natural gas. The figure grew to 126 by the end of last year. Piedmont said its goal is to operate at least 300 natural gas vehicles in its fleet by 2014. Such vehicles are 40 to 50 percent less expensive to operate than those powered by gasoline or diesel, the company said.

The 33-page report also offers a broad review of the last year, including:

• The addition of 13,274 customers.

• Roughly $550 million in utility capital investments, the largest such program in the company’s history.

• Net income of $119.8 million, or $1.66 per diluted share, up from $113.5 million, or $1.57 per share, the year before.

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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