Berkshire Gas is a Pittsfield, Massachusetts energy company with more than 40,000 customers across 20 communities in Western Massachusetts. In January, industry veteran Sue Kristjansson took over as company president from Frank Reynolds. Kristjansson spoke with WAMC.
KRISTJANSSON: I've been in the gas business for a little over 20 years. I started out at SoCal Gas in California, and for the past three years, I've been in Tennessee, as the President and CEO of Oak Ridge Utility District. It's a local distribution company. And now I've moved over here. I've been very active in the natural gas industry from a national perspective. From a state perspective in Tennessee, I served on several boards, the American Gas Association, the American Public Gas Association, the Tennessee Gas Association. So I guess you could say I'm deeply entrenched in the world of natural gas.
I'm interested in the parallels or the contrast between working in natural gas in Tennessee, and working in natural gas here in Massachusetts.
Different states have different goals for the future of energy. But I think they all bubble up into the same discussion. And that is, you know, what are the best forms of energy for the future? And so really, that's the discussion that's going to be had, no matter where you are.
With that in mind, Massachusetts is trying to get to net zero emissions by 2050. How does natural gas play into conversations about lowering fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades?
I want to start off by saying natural gas is, in its current form, a very clean burning source of energy. But without question, there are things that need to be done to to move forward or move the needle in what that balance of energy will look like in the future. The natural gas industry overall has made dramatic strides to that end over the past 20 years: energy efficiency measures, increased standards and appliances. Those things have already done a lot of work to bring down the emissions levels over that period of time. But without question, there's still more to be done. There are technologies that the gas industry is working on. There is renewable natural gas, there is clean hydrogen or green hydrogen. You know, there's technologies that we can bring to bear that will further advance our contribution to the future of the environment.
You've talked about working in the natural gas world across the country. I'm interested- when you come to a new place like the Berkshires, what kind of relationships are important to you to do your job in the community outside of just the energy industry itself?
Oh, my goodness, there's a whole lot. There's policymakers in the area. There's legislators in the area, there's business organizations, chambers of commerce. You have to know who all of the players are who are going to be impacted with any decisions that are made in order to move forward with the right decision-making process. I plan to meet as many people as I can and involve myself as much as I can, so that I know exactly what's going on. And that'll help me move forward better with Berkshire Gas.