Why FortisBC actually wants you to use less of their energy:
When you hear the words “Renewable Natural Gas ”, chances are that “sustainable, low-carbon energy” are not likely the thoughts that immediately follow suit.
However, that’s exactly what Wilden Living Lab, a living experiment in Kelowna, is trying to demonstrate, in partnership with a research team at UBC and FortisBC’s Conservation & Energy Management department.
Renewable Natural Gas might just be the misunderstood energy source on the block.
What is “Renewable Natural Gas” (RNG)? We asked Nicole Brown, who’s part of FortisBC’s Conservation & Energy Management team, to explain:
“Renewable Natural Gas is a sustainable, low-carbon energy that is key to a lower-carbon future for British Columbia. It’s derived from organic sources, uses existing carbon already within the ecosystem and does not contribute any net new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making it a low-carbon fuel.”
So what exactly makes it “renewable”?
The research team at UBC elaborates on this further, describing how Renewable Natural Gas follows a closed-loop system. This differs from the linear system that natural gas follows, as a closed loop system removes and reuses carbon dioxide. The end result is a more sustainable and cost-effective production system.
Closed Loop System at work: natural gas vs renewable natural gas
Renewable Natural Gas comes with its share of benefits and drawbacks, including the following:
Low carbon intensity
Research from the team at UBC demonstrates how Renewable Natural Gas is a low carbon energy when compared to the lifecycle carbon intensity of conventional natural gas.
The current burner tip carbon intensity(0.29gCO2e/MJ) and portfolio lifecycle emissions (-22gCO2e/MJ) of Renewable Natural Gas are both below B.C.’s carbon intensity threshold for low-carbon gases (36.4 gCO2e/MJ) as set out in the 2021 BC Hydrogen Strategy.
Research also shows that Renewable Natural Gas reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during transportation, electricity generation and heating. When compared to conventional gasoline and diesel, RNG can significantly reduce GHG emissions.
Renewable Natural Gas can also be produced locally. Not only does this increase energy security by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, but it also can help stimulate economic development in rural areas by creating local jobs in the area. Selling Renewable Natural Gas into the natural gas grid also supports the economy by delivering profits for owners of landfills, wastewater treatment plants, farmers, and food processors.
Cost of production
Producing Renewable Natural Gas has so far been more expensive than that of fossil natural gas, primarily due to the specialized technology and infrastructure required. While the cost of production is expected to decrease over time as technology advances, it may still be more expensive to produce right now than other energy sources.
RNG production plant in Glenmore/Kelowna
Education and awareness
Despite the benefits of Renewable Natural Gas, there is still a commonly held misconception by the general public about what “renewable natural gas” actually means.
FortisBC has been active with various awareness campaigns in their efforts to bring attention on Renewable Natural Gas to a wider audience. They are also working closely with municipalities who are looking to supply it from their landfills and wastewater treatment plants, as well as decarbonize buildings in their communities.
The NextGen home, Phase II of the Wilden Living Lab Project, uses Renewable Natural Gas for its water heating system, fireplace, and kitchen stove. It also plays a vital role in the home’s Multi-Source Clean Energy System as a back-up for the air source heat pump when temperatures are below minus 10 degrees.
The Wilden Living Lab research project is a joint initiative by UBC Okanagan, FortisBC, AuthenTech Homes and the Wilden community, Kelowna’s largest master-planned real estate development. The current phase of the project collects data from the “Next Generation Home”, a net-zero home that according to the current modeling generates more energy than it needs. The partners publish all research findings on their website.
RNG application in NextGen Home
With Renewable Natural Gas gaining momentum as a viable alternative energy source, what does this mean for the future of BC?
“Research shows that BC’s renewable and low carbon gas supply could be double the current gas use by 2050”, says Brown.
Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 45% as of 2005 by 2030 and increasing renewable energy percentage in the energy portfolio.
FortisBC has submitted an application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission suggesting that all newly built homes connected to the gas system receive 100% Renewable Natural Gas. This would provide home builders, developers and new homeowners with an alternative energy option that would help meet provincial climate action targets.
They are also aiming to increase Renewable Natural Gas in its system and decrease conventional gas usage, with a target of 15% renewable supply by 2030 and are working towards achieving roughly 75% by 2050.
More education and awareness, such as educational events, seminars, and peer-reviewed scientific publications, will be needed to bring the benefits of Renewable Natural Gas adoption to a wider audience in order to reach these goals.
Want to learn more about Renewable Natural Gas? Check out FortisBC to learn how Renewable Natural Gas can help support your personal or your business’ sustainability goals.
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