What is RNG?
Renewable natural gas (RNG) production typically begins with the collection of organic wastes such as landfill waste, agricultural waste, wood waste, or waste water. When organic waste decomposes, it releases methane, which is the primary component of natural gas. Producers can capture and purify this 'biogas' and inject it as RNG into existing natural gas streams. LINK
Why We Oppose FortisBC Energy’s proposal
for Renewable Natural Gas in new homes
On Jan. 20, FortisBC announced bringing a proposal to the BC Utilities Commission to supply all new homes with 100 % “renewable gas” at no cost to future customers in new homes.
‘Renewable natural gas’ is neither renewable nor natural. It is used once (when it is burned), so is not renewable, and is produced by breaking down bio-waste in artificial (anaerobic) settings followed by a refining process, so is not natural. It is more accurately called biomethane.
Fortis has boldly predicted that 15% of their distributed natural gas will be from renewable sources by 2030 and the majority of the gas they deliver will be renewable by 2050. The City of Kelowna Glenmore Landfill is the sole large generator of ‘renewable natural gas’ in the Okanagan Valley at this time.
Currently the City of Kelowna and the Regional District of Central Okanagan intentionally do not divert food waste from landfills so as to ensure the maximum amount of landfill gas is generated. In 2020 the Glenmore Landfill estimated they captured 66% of the methane gas from their landfill. Approximately 700 tonnes of this gas was sold to Fortis. Using the 20 year calculation method for methane, the 34% of gas not collected is almost 30,000 tonnes of CO2equivalent. Although this is a crude calculation it does raise concerns about the ability to reduce overall emissions when creating ‘renewable natural gas’. Diverting food waste from landfills and composting it naturally (aerobically) would be a better way to reduce emissions as no methane would be produced, so non-capture would not be an issue (in this example, about 30,000 tonnes of CO2equivalent emissions would be avoided).
First Things First does not support using ‘renewable natural gas’ in buildings as a means to achieve municipal Climate Action plan targets. The ability of electric heat pumps to replace gas furnaces for heat has been proven to be cost effective and to dramatically reduce GHG emissions.
Energy is required to transport biowaste to and from processing plants, to build processing infrastructure, and to refine biogas into biomethane, all of which increase its carbon footprint. It is not carbon neutral and is only low carbon when used where it is produced, e.g. Toronto municipal garbage trucks use biomethane that is produced on-site at its own landfill. Furthermore, obtaining biomethane from multiple sources and transporting it through pipelines, as FEI proposes to do, increases the risks of fugitive emissions and methane non-capture.
Biomethane is useful as a replacement for diesel back-up generators, in long-haul transportation and other situations where there are no low carbon alternatives. First Things First Okanagan believes biomethane should be reserved for such situations, not used in buildings where renewable options are already available.