(Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop photo)

(Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop photo)

HOLM: Renewable Natural Gas

Margaret Holm is a new columnist writing about solutions to global warming

My husband and I live in an old house which over the years has been heated with oil, electric baseboards, and for the past thirty years, with a natural gas furnace. Although natural gas is considered a cleaner fossil fuel than coal or oil, it is extracted from the ground by fracking and has a much higher carbon footprint than electricity.

To tackle global warming, we need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which trap heat in the atmosphere. About 11% of emissions come from residential buildings, so the decisions we make about home heating and cooling can make a big difference to our carbon footprint.

Installing an electric heat pump is the best energy efficient and low emission choice for new homes or switching out baseboard heaters. But it is an expensive option if you already own a natural gas furnace. Luckily, homeowners in B.C. who use natural gas have another great option which is to switch all or some portion of your monthly bill to renewable natural gas.

Renewable Natural Gas is obtained from the breakdown of agricultural, forestry, and landfill waste. Methane produced by decomposing waste from dairy farms or landfill garbage that would ordinarily escape into the air is processed and added into the natural gas pipeline system and is considered carbon neutral.

FortisBC was the first utility company in North America to offer renewable natural gas to customers. Currently about 1% of Fortis customers use biogas from a half dozen facilities including Kelowna’s Glenmore Landfill, as well as dairy, food processing and organic compost operations in the Lower Mainland.

A biomass crane handling wood waste. (CNW Group/FortisBC)

Jason Wolfe, Director of Energy Solutions for FortisBC states, “We have a 30 by 30 plan to reduce our own and our customers’ emissions by 30 percent by 2030. There are a whole mix of new sources coming on stream including REN Energy in Fruitvale using forestry and sawmill wood waste and the Delta and Vancouver landfills. By mid-2022 we expect to have ten times the supply volume for customers.”

FortisBC plans to have 15 % of its natural gas supply come from renewable sources by 2030 and 30 % by 2050. Hydrogen is also being tested as a zero-emission additive to natural gas as well as a fuel source on its own.

Refining methane from organic waste does cost more to produce so customers who chose to purchase 100 % renewable will pay more each month for carbon neutral biogas. But they will still be paying considerably less than electric heating and can opt for using from 5 to 100 % renewable natural gas. They will also avoid paying the carbon tax levy for the renewable natural gas.

Renewable energy

Every day in B.C. tons of garbage arrives in landfills, animal manure decomposes in farmers’ fields, wood waste is burned, and food and agricultural waste is driven to landfills. These emissions can be put to work instead of escaping into our atmosphere and can reduce the amount of conventional fossil fuel taken out of the ground. It is part of the solution to create a clean energy future.

About Margaret Holm:

Margaret Holm

Margaret Holm lives in Penticton and is an educator and writer for environmental conservation and climate engagement.

Contact Holm at margaretholm@shaw.ca

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