The American Biogas Council held a mini virtual Biogas Americas conference on renewable natural gas (RNG) in early December, which included a panel on Dec. 8 focused on utility and regulatory RNG initiatives around the country. The panel was moderated by Emily O’Connell of the American Gas Association, and included Tanya Peacock, SoCalGas; Amber Lee, CenterPoint Energy; Nikki Bruno, Eversource; Heather Dziedzic, Consumers Energy; and Robin Lanier, Southern Company. The lack of federal policies has led to a patchwork of state policies and local gas distribution company (LDC) efforts, noted O’Connell. Progressive states with policies include California and Oregon.
A summary of the panel discussion (provided by The Foster Report) is in the December 11 edition of ABC Biogas News. Among the highlights:
- LDCs have a mandate to provide service with least-cost gas supplies, which creates a barrier for RNG, which carries a higher price. Therefore utilities are limited to voluntary tariffs for RNG at a premium price. Dziedzic of Consumers Energy, who raised this issue, noted that “a policy change to reframe the cost element from a cost per unit of gas to a cost per ton of carbon abated would help,” according to The Foster Report summary.
- Voluntary tariffs are helpful where legislation and regulation have not evolved. Peacock of SoCalGas raised the option of a renewable gas standard — like the Renewable Portfolio Standard for renewable electricity — “where utilities are authorized to buy increasing percentages of RNG to mix into their gas supply stream to gain scale and lower costs,” she explained.
- Several states have adopted policies or proposed legislation that could be possible models for advancing RNG, said the panelists. For example, California has a financial incentive for RNG connections, with $80 million available statewide to have RNG connection equipment included in utility rate base. A bill in the Minnesota legislature — the Natural Gas Innovation Act — would allow utilities to invest in alternative fuels such as RNG, renewable hydrogen and other technologies to lower or avoid GHG emissions. Colorado’s SB20-150, Adopt Renewable Natural Gas Standard, would require large utilities to obtain 5% of their gas supplies from RNG by 2025, increasing to 15% by 2035. It didn’t pass in 2020, and is being introduced again in the 2021 session.