CPUC Approves Dairy Biomethane Pilot Program

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has established a new program to reduce emissions of methane, a potent short-lived climate pollutant, from manure generated at dairies. According to CPUC, the pilot program will incentivize at least five projects where dairy digesters capture and process the biomethane gas from manure to produce renewable natural gas. This renewable gas can replace fossil fuel natural gas for generating electricity, space and water heating, and producing renewable vehicle fuels.

The program was adopted pursuant to S.B.1383, a 2016 law that authorizes funding of the dairy biomethane pilot projects to demonstrate interconnection to the gas pipeline system. The pipeline infrastructure is needed to inject renewable natural gas (after a conditioning process) into the utilities’ natural gas distribution system, where it may be sold to customers.

CPUC says methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases (GHGs), 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. S.B.1383 established a goal of 40% reduction of methane emissions statewide by 2030. Emissions from manure represent approximately 26% of California’s methane emissions.

“This program helps turn a waste product into renewable energy. In addition to reducing emissions of methane, the pilot projects will help improve air and water quality in the Central Valley and other regions,” says Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen, who was assigned to the proceeding. “Strong interagency coordination has allowed us to implement this in a very short time frame.”

Under the newly approved proposal, an interagency committee that includes CPUC, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture will select the pilot projects. The committee will choose projects based on an evaluation of the  proposed business model, likely GHG reductions realized and cost-effectiveness of achieving these reductions, environmental benefits, disadvantaged community benefits, and project readiness.

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