George Minter, Energy and Environmental Affairs Consultant, will be speaking on day 3 of the World Biogas eFestival. Prior to his session, George gives us some insight in to the current state of the biogas industry in the USA.
What are the largest obstacles the USA needs to overcome in order for the biogas industry to reach its full potential?
Awareness, regulatory direction and financing. Public policy remains focused on renewable energy as an electricity sector challenge, and the low tech opportunity of biogas is often overlooked as a public policy opportunity. A lack of awareness by decision makers, and a preference to high tech solutions results in misdirection of regulation and public policy, particularly when it comes to incentives to promote change or new approaches. Additionally, a misunderstanding around and bias against use of molecular sources of energy, and particularly combustion, also result in regulatory inaction or constraint. Misplaced environmental activism also acts as a constraint on regulatory action.
The biogas sector does need, and would benefit from, the same approaches we have seen work in solar and wind development. We need renewable electricity, and we need renewable gas, too. And mandates for utility purchases, or incentives to promote development really do work, and should be applied across the board. Here in California, we have argued for a renewable gas standard, that is requiring gas providers to meet an increasing percentage of demand with renewable gas. This is important as it establishes set demand, which then enables stable financing for production projects. We know this works in the solar and wind fields and so we must apply our same understandings to the biogas arena. Programs like the LCFS program, which establishes an economic value for all low carbon fuels, including biogas in the transportation sector has result in renewable natural gas replacing fossil gas in the transportation sector that has already switched to natural gas from diesel. The sector is over 60%, with some transit agencies approaching 100% renewable gas for their bus fleets. If the LCFS program works for transportation uses, why not stationary uses. We could apply the same economic incentive to drive biomethane into the residential and commercial gas marketplace and achieve significant GHG reduction benefit, at a far less cost than building electrification mandates, especially considering the methane abatement outcome and the zero carbon cycle of biomethane and renewable gas.
What are the most exciting/promising biogas projects in your region?
I think what we see as most exciting are the incentives from the California LCFS program driving biogas development projects, nationwide, and now with a renewed focus on California projects (as a result of both legislation and regulation), we see a plethora of new development in the dairy and ag sector, as well as the landfill sector coming online. Additionally, the utilities are now focused on decarbonizing their gas supply, so there is a willing partner to bring biogas, biomethane and renewable gas to market. These utilities are now committing to reaching certain threshold s of renewable gas replacement, which drives demand and stabilizes financing for production projects, For example, SoCalGas has announced its goal to achieve 20% renewable gas thruput by 2030.
What role does biogas have in a Net Zero future?
Biogas will play an increasingly important role in decarbonizing our energy systems in the decades ahead. Whether it is for industrial processes, electric generation, heat or cooking, more and more nations will include biogas and biomethane, and other renewable gases, as one of the tools in its toolbox for addressing climate change. In part, this is because it is a necessary process for addressing our methane to atmosphere challenge. And, in addressing the methane to atmosphere challenge by capturing it, we create energy. And we also address improved farming and waste management practices. It’s a circular economy.
In California we see greater development of the dairy and agricultural sector in both methane capture and delivery of biogas to the energy sector. We also see waste water management and landfill management developing greater access to energy markets. And we see biomethane as an important replacement for geologic methane. And finally, as we replace fossil gas with renewable gas, and the availability of biogases becomes constrained, other renewable gases, including green hydrogen and methanated hydrogen, will supplement the renewable gas marketplace and expand the net zero, and even below zero, impact of gas use for industrial processes and high heat demand, as well as everyday heating and cooking.
While electrification may be seen as a panacea, practical reality will mean many industries and businesses as well as commercial enterprises and households will remain reliant on a gas delivery system and molecular heat and combustion.
What is the focus of your presentation at the World Biogas eFestival?
I will be talking about why biogas, biomethane, renewable gas and hydrogen are critical to meeting world wide climate goals; why the production side is needed to address responsible agriculture and waste management; why renewable gases are clean, and near zero, to zero, and even below zero energy resources; how we can spur the development of this critical clean energy sector; and what is happening in California to address all this. I will also be addressing how biogas is just the first phase of a multiprong approach on renewable gas and hydrogen as a future energy resource for our clean energy future.
Hear more from George Minter on day 3 of the World Biogas eFestival, 20 May at 4-5.30pm BST (08:00 – 09:30 PST).