Securing a Role for Renewable Gas
Securing economic growth and protecting the environment - long viewed as competing ends - are increasingly seen as interdependent. As a result, efforts to pursue these ends through both government policy and private investment have focused to a great extent on renewable resources such as wind and solar energy. But attention is turning as well to the role that renewable gas will also play in achieving the critical objectives of a clean energy economy: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating thousands of sustainable jobs and increasing the diversity of the domestic energy supply portfolio, thereby enhancing America s energy security. At its full potential, renewable gas could well be the most reliable and the most cost-effective renewable energy source.
Renewable gas is the term that is used to describe pipeline-quality biomethane produced from biomass. It is interchangeable with natural gas. It is carbon neutral, extremely versatile and fully compatible with the U.S. pipeline infrastructure. It can be used in homes and businesses, in manufacturing and heavy industries, for electricity production and as an alternative fuel for transportation.
- Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions. From a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, Renewable Gas demonstrates tremendous benefits. That is because, when captured for conversion into Renewable Gas, methane from animal waste and other biomass sources that otherwise would have entered directly into Earth s atmosphere is instead combusted as Renewable Gas. This results in the release of greenhouse gases that are approximately 21 times less potent than methane released directly into the atmosphere. The use of Renewable Gas represents the recycling of carbon that is already circulating in the environment, whereas burning a fossil fuel represents the release of new carbon emissions that were previously sequestered in the earth.
- Increased Domestic Energy Production. Provides security by increasing the domestic production of renewable non-fossil fuel energy that could supplement foreign produced transportation fuels such as oil.
- Improved Waste Management. Collecting and processing animal waste from agricultural activities prevents run-off into local waterways and reduces groundwater contamination.
- New Revenue Source for American Farmers. Creates an opportunity for dairy, hog, and poultry farmers to convert a waste problem into a valuable supplementary revenue source.
- Innovative Domestic Job Creation. As the renewable gas industry continues to grow, increasing production will lead to the development and deployment of new technologies, while creating new green jobs that cannot be exported.
A broad national assesment of the potential for Renewable Gas to play a leading role in enhancing our energy security and environmental quality was conducted by the American Gas Foundation (AGF) earlier this year and found that with the right policies, Renewable Gas could meet the natural gas needs of half of all American homes. The benefits and potential of Renewable Gas identified by AGF suggest that policy makers and other stakeholders should further explore ways to enhance the production, distribution and use of this renewable resource.
Well conceived changes in government policies will expand the use of Renewable Gas across the country. These policy changes should incorporate the following:
- Parity: The playing field needs to be leveled so that Renewable Gas is valued, supported and incentivized in ways equal to renewable electricity or liquid transportation fuel. As a first step, Congress should create an investment tax credit for facilities that produce renewable pipeline quality gas.
- Accessibility and Integration: Our nation's pipeline infrastructure should facilitate the purchase and transfer of Renewable Gas in order to more easily meet local, state, or federal goals for renewable fuels.
State Regulatory Support
In February of 2010, NARUC passed a resolution supporting pipeline quality biomethane development as a Renewable Gas resource in the clean energy economy
In July of 2010, Donald Chahbazpour of National Grid delivered a presentation to the NARUC Staff Subcommitte on Gas.
National Grid's white paper - "Renewable Gas-Vision for a Sustainable Gas Network"- shows how 16 percent of natural gas demand in the four states National Grid services (Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and New Hampshire) could be met by renewable gas, and focuses on the role of renewable gas in the clean energy future of the United States. The paper also outlines what a future sustainable gas network could look like, as well as what needs to be done to make the vision a reality. Also see the accompanying fact sheet.
Fueling the Future: Production, Distribution, and Use of Biomethane as a Vehicle Fuel: Information about prospective use of upgraded biogas, or biomethane, as a fuel source for vehicles in Europe
Renewable Biogas Opportunities: Environmental Protection Agency information regarding renewable biogas.