Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has announced it has filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to offer renewable natural gas to its 21 million customers in Central and Southern California. Renewable natural gas is a fuel produced from waste and agriculture that can be used to heat homes and businesses, for cooking, and to fuel trucks and buses. The fuel assists in helping California reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions because it is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, meaning that it can take more GHG emissions out of the air than it emits as an energy source. Under the proposed program, millions of Californians would have the option to purchase a portion of their natural gas from renewable sources, just as many today can opt to purchase renewable electricity. The program is expected to create increased demand for renewable natural gas, which should help increase supply and lower its cost over time, similar to what has happened with renewable electricity created from wind and solar power. Photos of renewable natural gas projects in California are available here.
“Renewable natural gas is an important component in California’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions,” says Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas vice president of customer solutions and strategy. “Using renewable natural gas in homes and commercial buildings will cut greenhouse gas emissions just as much as mandating all-electric appliances, but 2 to 3 times more cost-effectively. This solution not only preserves consumer choice, it can achieve climate goals at a lower cost.”
As California seeks to reduce GHG emissions from homes and commercial buildings, renewable natural gas has emerged as a viable and cost-effective solution. A study last year showed that replacing less than 20% of SoCalGas’ traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas by 2030 can achieve the same greenhouse gas reductions as converting all homes and commercial buildings to electric-only energy. That same study also found that using a mix of both in- and out-of-state renewable gas resources is up to 2 to 3 times more cost effective in reducing greenhouse gases than an electrification scenario.
A 2016 study by the University of California, Davis calculated that California has the potential to produce approximately 90.6 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year of renewable natural gas from dairy, landfill, municipal solid waste, and wastewater treatment plant sources alone. This would be enough to meet the annual natural gas needs of around 2.3 million California homes. In addition, out-of-state sources of renewable natural gas are significant and growing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy the U.S. currently produces 1 trillion cubic feet of renewable natural gas every year, and that number is expected to increase to 10 trillion by 2030. Using even a portion of this renewable fuel would meet the needs of millions more Californians.