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Northwest Natural Holding Company (NWN) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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NWN earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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Northwest Natural Holding Company (NWN 1.19%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Nov 5, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the NW Natural Holdings Company Third Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Nikki Sparley, Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead, ma'am.

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Nikki Sparley -- Director, Investor Relations

Thank you, Chuck. Good morning, and welcome to our third quarter 2021 earnings call.

As a reminder, some things that will be said this morning contains forward-looking statements. They are based on management's assumptions, which may or may not occur. For a complete list of cautionary statements, refer to the language at the end of our press release. We expect to file our 10-Q later today. As mentioned, this teleconference is being recorded and will be available on our website following the call. Please note, these calls are designed for the financial community. If you are an investor and have additional questions after the call, please contact me directly at 503-721-2530. News media may contact David Roy at 503-610-7157.

Speaking this morning are David Anderson, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Frank Burkhartsmeyer, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. David and Frank have prepared remarks and then we'll be available along with other members of our executive team to answer your questions.

With that, I will turn it over to David.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Nikki, and good morning, everybody. I'll start today with highlights from the quarter and then turn it over to Frank to cover our financial performance. And finally, I'll wrap up the call with a few updates on our strategic initiatives and a look forward.

The company continues to operate very well during the year, and as you've seen, posted very strong financial results. We reported net income of $1.24 per share for the first nine months of 2021 or 55% increase compared to net income from continuing operations of $0.80 per share for the same period last year. New rates in Oregon drove results of the natural gas utility along with solid customer growth and higher revenues at our interstate storage business.

We also continue to see positive momentum in the local job market and the housing sector. Employment growth in the Portland Metro area has picked up steam since late last year, growing faster than the U.S. throughout most of 2021. Unemployment rates in the Portland Metro have declined to 14.4 -- excuse me, 4.9% in August 2021 compared to the national rate at 5.2%.

Single-family housing activity remains very strong. In Portland, home sales were up 15% for the first nine months of 2021 compared to 2020, and the average sale price was up 18%. New single-family permits issued were up 29% in Oregon through September of this year compared to last year. In summary, construction and development remains robust in our region. And this resulted and translated, if you will, into nearly 12,000 new customers connecting to our system over the last 12 months, which equates to a growth rate of 1.5%. Our water and wastewater utilities also continue to grow. Strong residential construction primarily in Idaho, Texas and Washington translated into a 3% customer growth rate. We also closed acquisitions this past year leading to an overall connection growth rate of 5%.

During the quarter, we filed our annual purchase gas adjustment, which for the first time in Oregon, included renewable natural gas. In October, we received approval from both the Washington and Oregon commissioners on our PGA. New rates went into effect November 1. Despite these increases, customers continue to pay nearly 30% less for the natural gas today than they did 15 years ago, and natural gas continues to maintain its competitive position as a fuel of choice. In fact, for the typical home we serve, natural gas enjoys up to a 60% price advantage over electric, portable and oil furnace.

Now an update on our general rate case in Washington. As you may remember, Washington service territory covers about 12% of our overall customers and about 10% of consolidated revenues. In October, the commission issued an order approving our multi-party settlement. Under the multi-year order, Northwest Natural's revenue requirement increased $5 million on November 1 and will increase to an additional $3 million on November 1 in 2022. New order includes several items that mitigate the impact of customer bill as a part -- as parties recognize, this remains a very challenging time for customers. Both years are based on the cost of capital of 6.814% and rate base would increase the total of $52.6 million to $247.3 million.

We continue also to make progress under the landmark Oregon Senate Bill 98 legislation which supports renewable energy procurement and investment by natural gas utilities. During the third quarter, our request for proposal for additional RNG supply or investments concluded. And I'm happy to report we have received a very robust response and are evaluating a number of potential opportunities coming out of this process.

Northwest Natural have options to invest up to a total estimated $38 million in four separate RNG development projects that will access biogas derived from water treatment at Tyson Foods processing plants. Construction on our first RNG facility began this fall with commissioning planned for early in 2022. Today, we signed agreements with options to purchase or develop RNG totaling about 2% of Northwest Natural's annual sales volumes in Oregon. I'm very proud of the progress we have made in just frankly one year.

To put it into perspective, total today wind and solar account for about 11% of our nation's electric supply, and that's after decades of investment. So I think we've made good progress in a short period of time with more to come. We'll continue to take these critical steps to source more and more of our supply from renewables knowing that this also helps communities close the loop on waste.

In our water business, we're seeing increased business development activity and a robust acquisition pipeline that includes acquiring water utilities around our existing systems. We closed three tuck-in acquisitions this year and expect to close another one soon. At the same time, we continue to invest in our existing utilities. For example, construction is going well on an upgraded wastewater facility at our Sunriver, Oregon utility. Projects like these help our water utilities continue providing safe and reliable service and meet stringent environmental standards.

To support investments at our utilities, we're filing general rate cases as necessary. And to date, we successfully completed rate cases in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, building constructive relationships with our regulators. Right now, we're working through a general rate case in our largest utility, Sunriver here in Oregon, which is moving along nicely. We continue to see an increased level of business development activity and remain excited about the investment potential for this business. We hope to have more announcements soon.

And finally, this morning, I'm pleased to report that in the fourth quarter, the board of directors approved a dividend increase, making this the 66th consecutive year of annual dividend increases. Northwest Natural is one of only three companies on the New York Stock Exchange with this outstanding record.

With that, let me turn it over to Frank to cover some more of the financial information.

Frank H. Burkhartsmeyer -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, David. Good morning, everyone. I'll begin by discussing the highlights of the third quarter and year-to-date 2021 results and conclude with guidance for the year. I'll describe earnings drivers on an after-tax basis using the statutory tax rate of 26.5%. As a reminder, Northwest Natural's earnings are seasonal with a majority of revenues and earnings generated in the first and fourth quarters during the winter heating months.

For the quarter, we reported a net loss of $20.7 million or $0.67 per share compared to a net loss of $18.7 million or $0.61 per share from continuing operations for the same period in 2020. The increase in net loss over last year was driven by our gas utility, which posted a $0.04 per share higher loss. Lower earnings at the gas utility were primarily related to higher operations and maintenance and depreciation expenses, partially offset by new rates in Oregon from a general rate case, which was effective beginning November 1, 2020.

Utility margin in the gas distribution segment increased $4.1 million as a result of the new rates in Oregon and customer growth, which collectively contributed $3.7 million. Utility O&M increased $3.8 million, reflecting higher expenses from information technology upgrades, higher lease expenses associated with our new headquarters and operation center and a benefit in the third quarter of 2020 related to recording the year-to-date COVID deferral. Depreciation expense and general taxes increased $1.8 million related to higher property, plant and equipment as we continue to invest in our system.

For the first nine months of 2021, we reported net income of $38.1 million or $1.24 per share compared to net income from continuing operations of $24.5 million or $0.80 per share for the same period in 2020. The $0.44 per share increase was largely driven by the gas utility, which contributed $0.31 with our other businesses contributing $0.13 per share as compared to last year. Higher earnings at the gas utility were primarily related to new rates in Oregon and customer growth.

In the gas distribution segment, utility margin increased $26.2 million. Higher customer rates and customer growth contributed $27.3 million. This was partly offset by a loss from the gas cost incentive sharing mechanism as we purchase higher priced gas during the February 2021 cold weather event. Utility O&M increased $8.5 million, driven by higher employee compensation and benefit costs, lease expenses for our new operations and headquarters and higher cost related to information technology system upgrades. Depreciation expense and general taxes increased $7.3 million. Net income from our other businesses increased $3.9 million, largely due to higher asset management revenues from the cold weather event in February.

During the first nine months of 2021, cash provided by operating activities was $182 million, an increase of $31 million compared to last year. We reinvested $204 million into the business, most of which was for the gas utility capital expenditures. Our balance sheet remains strong with ample liquidity. The company reaffirmed 2021 earnings guidance today for net income in the range of $2.40 to $2.60 per share. Guidance assumes continued customer growth, average weather conditions and no significant changes in prevailing regulatory policies mechanisms or outcomes or significant changes in loss legislation or regulations.

With that, I'll turn the call back over to David for his concluding remarks.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Frank. We're taking important steps today to lay the foundation for frankly continued success in the future. I'm proud to announce that we've also launched a competitive renewable natural gas strategy today on the new non-regulated subsidiary rate Northwest Natural Renewables to execute on that strategy. Northwest Natural Renewables is committed to leading the energy transition and providing renewable fuels to the utility, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors. We're focused on providing cost-effective solutions to help these sectors decarbonize using existing waste streams and renewable energy resources.

We've been at the forefront of the energy transition for some time. We've led on conservation with the decoupling mechanism in the gas utility sector. We were one of the first to have a voluntary carbon offset program. We prioritized and finished our bare steel and cast iron pipe replacement program well ahead of others. And we were also the first mover with our 2016 carbon savings goal, which is unique and ambitious and not only does it include emissions on our operations, but it includes our customers' emissions too.

Now we're doing the work to help move us toward our vision of becoming a carbon-neutral utility. All of that work has culminated in the firm belief that there is a large and long-term need for renewable natural gas. Central to strategy is the belief that the diversified energy system is more affordable, more reliable, and importantly, more resilient. The events in Texas this past winter were a stark example of the importance of resilience and redundancy.

The electric and gas systems depend on each other to serve our communities, and each system provides different benefits. In fact, by their nature, each system complements the other and hedges against certain risks with wires above ground delivering renewable electrons and pipes below ground delivering renewable molecules. This diversification helps us effectively meet different energy needs and will be even more important going forward as climate change and severe weather pose new risk.

All of this means we're approaching the competitive RNG space throughtfully but with confidence. We're in the midst of a historic energy transition, and the demand for renewable fuels is only going to continue to grow. Renewables are a clear priority at all levels in our government. And importantly, customers are demanding renewable energy, including fuels to power their businesses and heat their homes. A growing number of states have renewable mandates and others have voluntary renewable natural gas tariffs. Customers across sectors are also focused on this issue. In fact, 60% of the Fortune 500 companies have set goals to act on climate prices and address energy use and others are fast following.

As a result, cost-effective RNG demand is expected to exceed supply in the near-term with many large scale low-cost projects yet to be developed. Today, the RNG supply equals less than 1% of natural gas utility demand. And we project a substantial increase in RNG supply needed to meet voluntary and compliance-driven targets instituted by states and utilities. We see promising investment potential in this area. Just a few years ago, there were only 50 RNG facilities in North America. And now, over 300 are in operation or under construction with nearly 100 more in development.

Leaders in Europe are utilizing RNG at an aggressive pace with Denmark at nearly 25% of its supply coming from renewable natural gas. We believe we are well positioned to help fulfill this need as it aligns with our core competencies. We view the competitive RNG market as a natural extension of our sustainability efforts and believe it offers a broader set of opportunities to lead beyond our service territories.

In the nascent U.S. market, we have an early mover advantage here. With our expertise and credibility as a leader, we are an attractive counterparty for developers and feedstock owners seeking a reliable long-term strategic partner. Most RNG projects are also sized right for us to effectively transact and to provide meaningful growth in cash flow. As we discussed in the past, we strive to provide stable growing gas and water utility earnings, while seeking to add growth that fits our conservative strategy. The renewable natural gas business represents a significant opportunity for us to add earnings, and importantly, cash flows under long-term contracts in a fast-growing market segment.

As you can see from today's announcement, we've already taken our first steps in our non-regulated RNG strategy, one of which is a 20-year RNG supply agreement that includes a $50 million investment. We intend to remain disciplined and focused as we assess our other RNG opportunities that support the energy transition and also provide additional growth for the company. In summary, your company is financially strong, and I'm pleased with the progress in our gas and water utilities. We believe the renewable strategy is added -- additive to our earnings profile, providing a sight lines to incremental opportunities.

So thanks for joining us this morning. With that, Chuck, we'll open the call up to if there's any questions out there.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Yes sir. [Operator Instructions] And the first question will come from Julien Smith with Bank of America. Please go ahead.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thanks, operator, and good morning, everyone. Thanks for taking the time. I appreciate it. Pleasure. So -- and congratulations I should add on the announcement here ensue RNG more fully. So perhaps just at the outset if you could talk a little bit more about how you're thinking about returns and profiles, especially as you think about 2024 as you get those first projects all up and going on a run rate basis? But also, how does this impact your long-term earnings growth trajectory? Obviously, you've got a 3% to 5% out there. How are you thinking about this being additive? And when do you think about kind of rolling that out, if you will?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, I'll start off here and then I'll turn it over to Justin to give a little more details on what we're seeing out there. But we're just now getting into this. We see, as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, we see a lot of opportunities here. And it's -- and I think all of those are going to be additive to the earnings profile going forward. I'll let Frank talk a little bit more about that. We will be sharing more information in the coming months as we roll this out. But let me turn it over to Justin for a second to give a little bit more information on what he is seeing there and a little bit more meat on the bone.

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Thanks, David. Yeah, we'll be updating you in the coming months on EPS impacts. Julien, I appreciate the question. We believe we are developing and securing RNG at prices that are well below market. If you look at kind of where you're seeing recent pricing on RINs and LCFS values, but certainly, also in other areas where there is long-term contracts such as the CPUC, they recently recommended a price of $17.70 per MMBtu subject to a first-tier approval in their biomethane program. So there is a wide range of values out there in the market and we are confident that the RNG we are developing and securing will enable us to capture some margin there. But we'll be updating you in the coming months on the specific EPS impacts and growth targets.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Got it. Let me put it this way. Is there any parameters or framework that you would think about sort of capping out the size of this program, I mean, 10% of earnings? Any kind of heuristics that you're thinking about maybe driven by credit considerations or otherwise when you think about how far you want to go with this?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

That's a good question, and we're not really prepared at this time to kind of -- to talk about that. But like we've done with water, we would not have got into this if we didn't think we could grow it to scale, and we're still focused on doing that with water. We've done one contract on the RNG side here. We do have some other line of sight, ones that we're looking at moving forward. But I do expect this to be additive to the 3% to 5% earnings growth that we see going forward, and I think some of the prices that Justin just gave out for that support that. And again, we'll put a little bit more meat on the bone for you as we move forward on this. But at this juncture, it's a little early to say whether it's going to be 10% or 20%. But we do see lots of targets, lots of opportunities, and we wouldn't be in this for one or two box type transactions.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Fair enough. Last question here real quickly, if you can. You mentioned the SB 98 in Oregon here and talking about the RFP here, can you talk a little bit about the opportunities that could come out of that? I mean, you said, you're still evaluating, but kind of frame that as well here. I get that there is a parallel process here, but I'm curious relative to competitive, what kind of opportunities could exist out of 98?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I really appreciate the question because we are very focused on doing RNG in the utility too. This does not mean that we're not focused on the utility side of the equation to continue to move that decarbonization process further. And frankly, we see enough opportunities out there for both the unregulated and the regulated side. Justin, do you want to give a little bit more information on the process internally on the utility side?

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Yeah. And we mentioned our projects with Tyson a little bit earlier in the call. Our first project is working its way through the regulatory process now and we expect to have a little bit more visibility on that in the coming months. We have three additional projects with Tyson that we anticipate moving forward as well. And all of those are going through the utility, the SB 98 process. The procurement contracts that we've approved as well are also through SB 98 effectively, and the first two are already approved through the PGA just a couple of weeks ago. So it's great to see that progress.

The announcement here around our competitive RNG strategy is really a reflection of the broader opportunity that we see. We are well on track to meet the targets set out under SB 98 for decarbonizing our own fuel supplies here in Oregon. And we see a broader opportunity out there in the market frankly across the country to decarbonize not just our own gas utility, but other customers' as well, whether they're in the utility, commercial, industrial or transportation sectors. So more details to come, but we are excited about the opportunities here.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Sorry to keep going. I just want to clarify what you said there a moment ago. Should we expect some kind of holistic update come early next year in the form of Analyst Day or something like this? I mean, I hear you that you're running parallel efforts, but they sound like they sort of come to conclusion at roughly the same time, whether it's the credit or the competitive or even the regulated RNG opportunities?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We'll continue to -- what we're trying to say is, we're in the early stages on this unregulated side and we'll continue to keep you up to speed as we grow this and as we move forward. No Analyst Day planned at this time, but I do anticipate additional information being shared with everybody as we continue to make progress here.

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Got it. All right. Well, listen, best of luck on these new efforts.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you very much. Have a great day.

Operator

The next question will come from Tate Sullivan with Maxim Group. Please go ahead.

Tate Sullivan -- Maxim Group -- Analyst

Hi. Thank you. A couple of follow-up questions on the RNG on the unregulated strategy. What led you to EDL and roughly how many RNG projects have they already done in the U.S. if you can share that?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Justin, do you want to take that one?

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Yeah, happy to share that. So EDL is actually -- they're an Australia-based global leader in renewable energy. They have a portfolio of landfill gas assets here in the United States that I believe is well over a dozen projects. These first two were really attractive to us just because of the scale and the overall cost profile that that leads to, and EDL as a partner is also very attractive to us. They are very experienced in this space. There is other opportunities to work with them we believe in the future. And so far -- and the relationship that we've developed, it's very constructive and cooperative and we have very aligned views on the market and in our strategic objectives.

Tate Sullivan -- Maxim Group -- Analyst

Okay. And understanding that more detail has to come, but will you -- I mean, can this focus similar to your water strategy in multiple states or are you focusing on specific regions?

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

We see this as really a national strategy. There is RNG supplies to be had all around the country. And so we don't see this as limited to any specific region. With our water strategy, we really started in the Pacific Northwest and expanded from there and have been very selective, particularly as it relates to the individual states and regulatory considerations in those states. With RNG, it's a little bit broader because some of those considerations just aren't as applicable. But I wanted to emphasize, we're approaching this competitive RNG strategy thoughtfully and with discipline. We're looking at acquiring and developing RNG projects once key permits and feedstock and lease agreements are in place and ensuring that design and construction costs are fully understood and that risks are appropriately allocated through contract.

So when we're talking about how big this business could get, it's really a function of the risk profile and how we will be able to manage that going forward. Importantly, we want to make sure that we build a diverse portfolio of projects that have long-term fixed-price contracts and limited exposure to the volatile brand and LCFS credit markets to ensure that stable and predictable cash flows consistent with the rest of our business is over the long-term.

Tate Sullivan -- Maxim Group -- Analyst

Great. Thank you. And I think there is some examples in the market of pipelines away from the landfills to offtake area. But assuming that is what your first two projects at the yield might involve, can you -- you mentioned funding your investments once commercial operations take place. Is this usually what EDL has done with their projects? Is that funding initially for the pipeline coming from EDL or how should I look at that?

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Yeah. I think the agreement that we have with EDL was somewhat unique and it's unclear that this will be replicated exactly the same way for other projects that we pursue. And I think this is just a function of kind of the nature of these projects where EDL was out with them and where we were at with our investment commitment. It's attractive for us because we are going to wait until the projects are constructed and ready for that commercial operations to begin before we actually fund our portion. So it has a lot of sort of risk allocation features that we find attractive.

Tate Sullivan -- Maxim Group -- Analyst

Okay. Well, thank you, and congratulations on the new strategy and great wording on the significant opportunity, and look forward to hearing more. Thank you.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Appreciate it. Thanks.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question will come from Selman Akyol with Stifel. Please go ahead.

Selman Akyol -- Stifel -- Analyst

Thank you. Good morning. So just a quick follow-up on EDL. Are you guys only looking at landfill or should we expect to see this may be expanded over to dairy?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, it's a great question. These first two projects are landfill projects. There are some attractive features we believe around landfill RNG and a lot of that is really just related to the cost profile. And the cost profile for certain dairy and other agricultural projects, sometimes it has just a higher underlying operational cost and an overall capital cost relative to the volumes of RNG you're able to produce. So while we are looking at a variety of feedstocks, that's what sort of led us to these initial.

I will also say, given our strategy, which is really focused on a low risk profile and ensuring that we can get long-term contracts for these RNG supplies in the non-regulated business is unlikely that we'll have as many dairy projects, simply because the folks that are out there investing in dairy projects today are monetizing those values in the LCFS markets primarily. And those markets are just -- they're a little bit more volatile and introduce an element of risk that isn't really where we're focused right now.

Selman Akyol -- Stifel -- Analyst

Appreciate that. And then you also referenced sort of 2% of your gas you're delivering now is RNG. How high do you expect to take that over time?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we've signed agreements and have investments in place to get to 2%. That will happen in the near-term. And I think the limits on this, do you want to talk about the RNG Senate Bill 98 level, at least the current legislation?

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Yeah. The Senate Bill 98 lays out voluntary targets for RNG volumes. And between now and 2025, it's 5% of our Oregon sales volume. After 2025 and up to 2030, it's 10%. So those are sort of the targets that have been laid out there. Those are targets that we feel confident we'll be able to achieve. And there may be additional volumes that we'll be able to get to over time as we develop more and more cost effective RNG and as this market matures.

Selman Akyol -- Stifel -- Analyst

Good. I appreciate that. And then just always of interest to me, any update on hydrogen?

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Kim, do you want to take that?

Kimberly A. Heiting -- Senior Vice President, Operations, and Chief Marketing Officer

Yeah. I mean, we're continuing to work with the project that we've signed an MOU in Eugene, Oregon. The partner that we're working with, EWEB, they have acquired the land and we've hired a consultant to do sort of the scoping of the equipment, understanding kind of the cost drivers there. So we're trying to line-up a filing for funding both here in Oregon under some potential legislation Senate Bill 844 that allows natural gas utilities to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we're also working and interested in secure funding through the low carbon resources initiative. It's over $100 million fund and an organization sort of partnering with Gas Technology Institute and EPRI on developing and investing in low emissions technology.

So there is more work that we're doing, but the project is moving forward. As you may recall, it's a lending project that we're focused on demonstrating hydrogen blends from the excess wind solar or hydro farm electric utility Eugene and blending it directly into our system. So the other part of the projects that our engineering team is working on is beginning the technical work to understand where in the system do we blend, where are those molecules going to dust and we have a really tight plan in parallel with trying to secure the funding.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think what's also important, Selman, is what's going on in DC right now with the House Reconciliation Bill, and AGA is right in the midst of that. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are supporting -- has strong support for hydrogen in the bill. So that's encouraging because that's some of the policy stuff that we need to have as an industry to kind of help that move forward. And in fact, AGA is also trying to work to see if we can get renewable natural gas opportunities in that bill. So -- but to have both sides of the aisle really supporting hydrogen, that's a good sign for the country in general. How it plays out specifically out here is yet to be determined other than what Kim can just talked about, but that's encouraging. I think everybody is recognizing that hydrogen is a real solution if we're going to solve this climate change problem that we have as a world.

Kimberly A. Heiting -- Senior Vice President, Operations, and Chief Marketing Officer

Maybe one other comment. We've been working with our peers at AGA and in Canada. You may have heard there was a study that came out of the European Union in the summer where 21 nations produced hydrogen backbone analysis that demonstrated it's roughly 70% of the existing gas infrastructure to deliver hydrogen and sort of realized a carbon-neutral goals that the EU set out. We're analyzing that information and beginning the work to think about here in North America how do we start planning the connections to our system and think about developing a similar plan here, and I'm really excited about that work.

Selman Akyol -- Stifel -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Selman.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to David Anderson for any closing remarks. Please go ahead, sir.

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, thank you, Chuck, and thank you, everybody. I know it's Friday and I know it's a busy Friday. Thank you for the time. If you have additional information you want, you all know that Nikki Sparley is your point contact, and we'd be happy to have any follow-up. So just give her a buzz. Everybody have a great weekend. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 35 minutes

Call participants:

Nikki Sparley -- Director, Investor Relations

David H. Anderson -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Frank H. Burkhartsmeyer -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Justin B. Palfreyman -- Vice President, Strategy and Business Development

Kimberly A. Heiting -- Senior Vice President, Operations, and Chief Marketing Officer

Julien Dumoulin-Smith -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Tate Sullivan -- Maxim Group -- Analyst

Selman Akyol -- Stifel -- Analyst

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