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.
Sample Comments to BCUC opposing FortisBC
Retired Energy Consultant
I am interested in these proceedings as a retired energy consultant focussed on residential energy efficiency and health housing in the context of climate change and sustainability, and also as a concerned parent. I am requesting BCUC reject FortisBC Energy Inc’s ‘Renewable Gas Connections’ rate. It would create a large cross‐subsidy that would skew the new residential construction market toward fossil gas heating, instead of electric heat pumps. Under the proposed rate, all new residential gas hook‐ups would pay the same for gas as other residential customers, but be deemed to receive 100% renewable gas. The subsidized rate is meant to allow new residential gas hook‐ups to meet the zero or low carbon Step Code, and enable gas hook‐ups to compete with heat pumps. The time is long past for fuel neutrality. Methane is methane regardless of its source. Any rate structure that encourages gas hook‐ups, whether ‘renewable’ or not, runs counter to the urgent need for fuel switching to electricity that permits the use of heat pump technologies. Provision of cooling in residential buildings is increasingly recognized as a life‐saver for the elderly and disabled. Emissions from gas ranges and ovens are now acknowledged to be unhealthy for occupants. Several municipalities wish to ban gas hook‐ups in new residential buildings. Please reject this application.
I am commenting on the Fortis proposal on RNG rates. The methodology “deems” new builds to receive 100% RNG and the cost of this is spread out to all ratepayers—all of whom receive the identical (low) mixture of RNG with other (mostly fracked) LNG. This subsidizes the increased cost of RNG (which is limited in supply and ultimately not realistically able to replace fracked LNG) , and also gives the illusion that new builds connected to gas are somehow all “renewable” and environmentally safe. The result is that fossil fuel use continues to grow with all the hazards that entails, and the new builds will face expensive retrofits down the line as fossil fuel is phased out. I strongly urge the BCUC to deny the proposed RNG methodology as unfair to all rate payers, deceptive, and ultimately unsafe and unhealthy for BC residents.
We are in a climate crisis! 2023 has been declared the most destructive wildfire season ever recorded in BC. The 4th of July 2023 was the hottest day on earth in as many as 125,000 years. Everyone should be terrified by the August 2022 Scientific American headline “This Hot Summer Is One of the Coolest of the Rest of Our Lives.” I implore you to adhere to your vision statement “To be a trusted and respected regulator that contributes to the well‐being and long‐term interests of all British Columbians.” We need to electrify everything and stop burning methane gas if future generations are to inherit a livable planet. Do not allow FEI to misrepresent their product by claiming they are selling 100% RNG. BC does not have enough RNG to supply all FEI customers, and we should not be creating more RNG (especially from fracked methane gas) to satisfy their business plan. WE NEED TO STOP BURNING METHANE. The RNG we do have, from landfills, agriculture, and sewage treatment, should be reserved for activities that are not easily electrified. Space heating in buildings, heating water and cooking are not among them. Don't promote the deception by allowing FEI to call their product something it is not, namely 100% renewable. Don't allow FEI to charge customers different rates for the exact same product. (How can that be legal?) Don't condemn future generations to increasingly destructive climate events to satisfy this industry’s primary concern, which is shareholder's profits.