Accelerating California’s Renewable Energy Economy

January 9, 2020

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Since its inception in 2015, the Renewable Gas 360 symposium (formerly known as Rethink Methane) has raised awareness among California’s policymakers of the important role that renewable gases can and should play to strengthen and accelerate the Golden State’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions, enhance the diversity and resiliency of energy resources, and create cost effective options to build a long-term sustainable economy.

For 2020, organizers and sponsors elected to “rethink” the name of the event. The symposium has always included discussion of a broad spectrum of renewable gases, including renewable hydrogen, propane, syngas, and methane. The rationale is, and has always been, that molecules of gas can also come from renewable resources. Harnessing these resources generally requires converting waste into a valuable product. Capturing the social and economic value of waste is a fundamental axiom of sustainability, which is why the promotion of renewable gases should be a bedrock principle of California’s strategy to reduce its environmental footprint while simultaneously growing the state’s economy.

Renewable Gas 360 encourages the state’s policymakers to develop policies and programs to accelerate California’s development of renewable gases.

Renewable Gas 360 continues this focus, encouraging the state’s policymakers to expand their perspective and develop an active and aggressive set of policies and programs to rapidly accelerate California’s development of renewable gases and the businesses that they encourage. This approach is particularly crucial if the state wants to be successful in meeting the goal of reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) 40% by 2030. The vast majority of the state’s inventory of SLCPs are the result of poor or inadequate management of organic waste. This could be reduced well beyond the 2030 target with a concerted effort to prioritize the state’s GHG reduction funds on the most cost effective SLCP reduction projects. The production of renewable gases, and the value that they can generate for investors, can attract billions of dollars of private capital to projects that, in their essence, are created to meet the state’s ambitious environmental objectives.

The 2020 edition of Renewable Gas 360 will address these and other important issues to making renewable gases a reality. The event’s first panel, Rethinking the Role of the Gas Utility in California’s Renewable Energy Future, will discuss the gas utility’s future role in a carbon constrained world. As the state inexorably moves away from fossil fuels, it is highly likely that renewable gases (both biogas and renewable hydrogen) will have to play a role to ensure California has a reliable supply of safe, affordable, low carbon energy. At the same time, utilities and policymakers in the state will need to assess how energy is produced, delivered, and paid for while evaluating whether the economic mechanisms and utility business models in place today are sufficient to realize the state’s energy vision. In this discussion, energy policy experts will evaluate the likely role of the gas utility in California’s energy future, and the policies that need to be addressed to ensure renewable gas plays an optimal role alongside other energy solutions.

Renewable gases do not only come from organic waste–they also can, and must, be derived from the surplus renewable electricity.

The day’s second panel discussion, Primer on New Power-to-Gas/Renewable Hydrogen Projects, will focus on strategies to produce renewable hydrogen, the most prominent being power-to-gas. Renewable gases do not only come from organic waste–they also can, and must, be derived from the surplus renewable electricity. Renewable hydrogen, which a growing number of energy system experts believe is critical to enable the 100% renewable electrical grid the state seeks to develop by 2045, can come from either steam reformation of bio gases (primarily methane) and/or from converting renewable electricity and water to hydrogen gas through electrolysis. The latter approach, commonly referred to as power-to-gas (P2G), enables the long-term storage of energy in the form of hydrogen gas. The hydrogen can be used directly, either in fuel cells or to run traditional power generation turbines—similar to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s plan to convert the Intermountain Power Project in Utah to a 100% hydrogen-fuel electric generation facility by 2045. This panel will not only review the mechanisms of P2G, but several developers that harness renewable hydrogen will be in attendance to provide an overview of their projects, discuss their challenges, and review the tremendous opportunity that P2G presents to not only the state, but to the world.

Capturing and storing electricity that is produced by wind and solar generators when demand is insufficient to absorb production is essential to achieving a 100% renewable energy future, and renewable hydrogen is an essential energy storage medium to realize that vision. Organic feedstocks can also be an important input to the production of renewable hydrogen. The incredible potential of renewable hydrogen has compelled the state and other institutions to invest in the development of a roadmap to a renewable hydrogen future in California. One of the principal authors of this soon-to-be-published report will be on hand to provide an overview of the strategy that can enable California to take advantage of renewable hydrogen as a key energy resource. The day’s third panel discussion, Renewable Energy Roadmap, will also include a cadre of hydrogen and fuel cell experts who will discuss the emerging blueprint for a renewable hydrogen future, and offer perspectives on what state policymakers can do to help realize this important low carbon energy future.

Attendees will receive an in-depth overview summarizing a recently completed comprehensive report of the nation’s potential RNG supply.

Immediately after lunch, attendees will receive an in-depth overview summarizing a recently completed comprehensive report of the nation’s potential RNG supply. This important study, Renewable Sources of Natural Gas, was produced by ICF and sponsored by the American Gas Foundation. The report addresses the often-asked question – how much RNG supply is possible – and also addresses the emission reduction benefits and costs associated with RNG production and consumption. ICF’s technical director will discuss the findings of the report which include a forecast of both California’s and the nation’s potential RNG supply out to 2040 and how RNG can be a viable and significant energy resource for the United States.

Renewable gases are not restricted to methane and hydrogen. Although less well known, propane can also be derived from renewable resources. In fact, renewable propane is a byproduct of a rapidly growing renewable diesel industry in the state. Renewable propane provides multiple benefits, including increasing energy flexibility, reliability, and resiliency to the state’s remote communities that must go without electricity during power safety shut off events. The increasing frequency of such power curtailments require policymakers and others to consider expanding the low carbon energy options available to remote residents, businesses, and communities across the state, and renewable propane nicely fits that bill. This afternoon panel, Emerging Renewable Gas: Who Knew Propane Could be Renewable?, will provide insight into the option to harness renewable propane as an energy resource, the strategies that can be used to get that clean fuel to market, and the many ways that renewable propane can be utilized to bring energy stability to communities now suffering from energy uncertainty.

Organic waste is the largest single source of SLCPs in California. The state’s dairy industry is a major source of these pollutants.

As noted above, organic waste is the largest single source of SLCPs in California. The state’s dairy industry is a major source of these pollutants. It also has one of the most successful industries to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. This proven success provides a critical lesson to both the public and private sectors. Rather than destroy or hamper one of the state’s biggest industries ($35 billion annually) and largest employers (180,000 jobs), policymakers and the California dairy industry have worked together to develop incentives and programs to advance dairy sustainability and put in motion a strategy that promises to dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from the state’s dairies. The day’s closing panel, Strategies and Success: Harnessing Dairy RNG, will feature experts from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, academia, and representatives from innovative dairy energy projects to provide insight into the steps stakeholders are taking to capture and beneficially reuse renewable dairy gas to the benefit of farmers, the economy, and the environment.

Renewable Gas 360 promises to be one of the best in the symposium series rich six-year history.  As in the past, the audience will be made up primarily of policymakers, whom we hope will take the information that they receive at Renewable Gas 360 and produce policies, programs and legislation that will promote and advance the role of renewable gases in California. Please join us and learn how you can help.

View the full agenda for Renewable Gas 360 and register to attend today.