Energy Leaders outline role of renewable natural gas in California

October 2, 2018. California's energy and biogas industry leaders met today at the "Power of Waste" conference to share their expertise in renewable natural gas and its importance in helping the state meet its renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction, and clean air goals.  In addition to the state's new law requiring all renewable and zero-carbon resources for electric generation by 2045, another law, Senate Bill (SB) 1440, requires the state's Public Utilities Commission and Air Resources Board to consider adopting biomethane procurement targets for gas companies in the state.  The conference, hosted jointly by Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and the national nonprofit organization Energy Vision, provided a timely look into successful biomethane development and its growth potential in California. The event was held at SoCalGas' Energy Resource Center in Downey, California.

   Renewable natural gas (RNG) can be produced from waste at landfills, wastewater treatment plants, food processing and dairies. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates 50 to 100 new or expanded anaerobic digestion and composting facilities will be developed in California to meet the 75% organics diversion goal by 2025 required by state law (SB 1383).

   RNG is a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study by Navigant, Consulting, Inc., replacing approximately 16 percent of the traditional natural gas supply with renewable gas can achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions equivalent to converting 100 percent of buildings to electric-only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in- and out-of-state resources, a renewable natural gas strategy is about three times more cost effective in reducing GHGs than an electrification pathway. In addition, renewable natural gas is available day and night to complement other renewable energy sources like solar and wind, making the entire energy system cleaner and more reliable.

   "Renewable natural gas can cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, short-lived climate pollutants and criteria pollutants to help meet California's climate and clean air goals," said Yuri Freedman, senior director of business development for SoCalGas. "And the latest state legislation means this renewable fuel is primed for further development."

   "Adding the various benefits of renewable natural gas together, you get something unique: the clean burning and lowest-carbon fuel available today," said Joanna Underwood, founder and board member of Energy Vision. "The California Air Resources Board and Argonne National Labs have both verified RNG can be net-carbon negative over its lifecycle, with more greenhouse gases being captured to make the fuel than are emitted by burning it. So making and using RNG doesn't just slow the accumulation of atmospheric GHG; it can actually help roll it back. As a transportation fuel, it can cut health-damaging particulate, NOx and SOx emissions to close to zero. California is the major market for RNG in the US, but it has yet to make much of it in-state. RNG represents a tremendous opportunity for California to turn its waste into energy, meet its climate goals and improve its air quality."

   "Interconnecting biomethane producers to our extensive pipeline network requires new, creative and innovative approaches," said Steve Moorleghen, wholesale marketing and business development, PG&E. "We are proud to partner with dairies and other energy companies to explore how we can bring more biomethane on-system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."