Articles

    RNG’s Untapped Potential

    Originally posted by Michael Bakas, EVP Distributed Energy Systems, Ameresco | May 4, 2020 | Biofuels Digest | Original Article

    In the final weeks of 2019, the American Gas Foundation updated its nearly decade-old report assessing the market and technical potential for renewable natural gas (RNG) supply and emissions reductions. One of the biggest takeaways was this: RNG could reduce emissions from natural gas in the residential sector by as much as 95 percent. This is a staggering figure, and just one of the many reasons why U.S. cities should consider investing in RNG as a clean energy source for their communities.

    While the combustion of fossil fuels for power generation and transportation are commonly thought of as the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), roughly one-third of emissions in the United States stem from the energy expended to heat, cool and light residential and commercial buildings.

    As this fact has become more widely known and accepted, cities and counties have begun to pass ordinances banning gas pipelines in future building constructions — opting instead for all-electric facilities. These natural gas bans are especially prevalent in states like California and Massachusetts, which are traditionally known for progressive energy policies and have committed to ambitious climate change goals. And, while these kinds of natural gas bans are well-intentioned, opting to “electrify everything” overlooks the fact that RNG could be a viable alternative for heating and powering existing building stock when it is not possible to add new infrastructure. RNG is unique in that it integrates directly into existing natural gas pipes, and can easily act in its stead. Even better — utilities are beginning to buy in to RNG too.

    SoCalGas, the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility serving more than 500 communities and 21.8 million consumers, has already committed to replacing 20 percent of its traditional natural gas supply with RNG by 2030. This decision — backed by Navigant research that the utility commissioned in 2018 — is expected to help reach established GHG emissions reduction goals at comparable, if not lower, costs as alternative electrification strategies. Similarly, National Grid in the Northeast is exploring strategies for integrating RNG into its pipeline network, particularly in the State of New York. And in January of this year, Philadelphia Gas Works announced that it will begin allowing customers in its service area to switch to RNG. Still, despite the support of utilities, about three-fourths of RNG produced in the United States is used for transportation fuel. RNG has proven its value in this application, but has yet to reach its full potential and recognition as a clean, green power source for homes and businesses. Action from state and local governments can help change that.

    READ the full article on Biofuels Digest