Biomethane Program Takes ‘Exciting First Step’ for Renewable Natural Gas Growth

California utilities Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southwest Gas have jointly issued a draft solicitation for dairy biomethane pilot projects under a 2016 law. Proposed projects must demonstrate an ability to capture and process biogas from dairy cows to produce renewable natural gas, which can replace traditionally sourced natural gas for generating electricity, heating homes and fueling vehicles. At least five projects will be selected.

The draft solicitation is the first step in a new program created under S.B.1383 by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which has been directed to reduce methane emissions from agriculture in the state by 2030.

“This is an exciting first step to building the market for renewable natural gas,” says Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas. “Renewable natural gas, with its ability to turn methane emissions into a source of energy, is a critical element of a comprehensive approach to climate change, and we look forward to supporting these efforts.”

“The capture of biogas from agriculture is an innovative way to produce renewable natural gas to fuel our homes and businesses while helping achieve the state’s climate goals,” says Michael Schneider, chief environmental officer and vice president of operations support and sustainability for SDG&E. “These pilot projects will help us identify a largely untapped energy resource and put organic waste to work for California.”

“Identifying new ways to reduce methane emissions and their effect on the environment is one of PG&E’s highest priorities. We remain committed to playing a key role in California’s emissions reductions effort and clean energy future. And, we are proud to partner with the state’s leading energy companies and agriculture producers to convert organic waste into a reliable source of energy. The capturing, transformation and utilization of methane emissions as a clean fuel source will have significant environmental benefits,” says PG&E Gas Operations Senior Director Christine Cowsert.

“Southwest Gas is pleased to partner with SoCalGas, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric to further develop the renewable natural gas market in California to help achieve the state’s climate change goals,” adds Randall Gabe, vice president of gas resources for Southwest Gas.

Proposed projects will be selected by the CPUC, California Air Resources Board and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The agencies will jointly choose projects based on an evaluation of the proposed business model, likely greenhouse-gas reductions realized, and cost effectiveness of achieving these reductions, environmental benefits, disadvantaged community benefits and project readiness.

Dairy biogas development is rapidly increasing in California, with help in part from $35 million in grant funding last year from the CDFA. The agency is expected to provide an additional $61 million to $75 million in grant funding for new dairy biogas projects this year. There are currently about 40 projects in the works, and experts expect there could be as many as 120 projects being developed by 2022.

The utilities will explain the draft solicitation process, gather feedback to clarify the process and answer questions at a workshop and webinar on Wed., Jan. 31, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. PT at the CDFA, 2800 Gateway Oaks Dr., Room 101, Sacramento, Calif., 95833. Additional information on the draft solicitation, as well as the workshop and webinar, can be found here.

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