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RNG could allow B.C. to double natural gas usage by 2050: Study

British Columbia’s renewable and low-carbon gas supply could accommodate a doubling of today’s ga...

A study commissioned by FortisBC and others shows B.C.’s growing green energy potential (Courtesy, Instagram/FortisBC Energy Inc.)

British Columbia’s renewable and low-carbon gas supply could accommodate a doubling of today’s gas usage by 2050, according to a study.

Commissioned by the B.C. government, FortisBC Energy Inc. (FortisBC) and BC Bioenergy Network (BCBN), the study suggests that made-in-B.C. renewable and low-carbon sources can completely supply the province’s gas system.

It also shows that by 2050, renewable and low-carbon gases could provide as much as 440 petajoules (PJ) per year — roughly double what currently flows through FortisBC’s gas system to homeowners in the province.

“Understanding the enormous potential that the province has to produce renewable and low-carbon gases shows a clear path forward to scale up the decarbonization of our gas system,” said Joe Mazza, vice-president, gas supply and resource development at FortisBC, in a statement.

“As a utility that also delivers clean hydroelectricity, we’re excited to advance a decarbonized gas system working alongside the electric system to maintain a provincial energy system that meets all of the needs of British Columbians efficiently and affordably.”

Push for RNG in B.C.

B.C. has been shown to hold a wealth of renewable and low-carbon gas potential over the last several years. Companies like FortisBC are looking at ways to deliver renewable energy to homes for the lifespan of the building.

FortisBC Energy recently submitted an innovative proposal to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), resulting in every new gas customer automatically receiving 100 percent renewable gas.

If approved, it would make the province the first jurisdiction in North America and FortisBC, the first utility on the continent, to produce renewable gas mandatory.

FortisBC has approximately 18 million gigajoules under contract, equivalent to the amount used by about 350,000 homes.

In 2021, the provincial government announced changes to increase the percentage of renewable gas utilities that can acquire and supply from five per cent to 15 per cent of their total annual supply.

The updated regulations, by which utilities can obtain hydrogen, RNG and other renewable gases, allowed B.C. to commit to a 15 per cent renewable gas content in the natural gas system by 2030.

Roadmap to replacing conventional natural gas

Between 2018 and 2021, FortisBC tripled its supply of RNG, and it expects to, at minimum, triple its collection again in 2022.

Using the more than 50,000 kilometres of transmission and distribution lines in FortisBC’s gas system is spurring producers to join in on the province’s effort to decarbonize.

“As a growing producer in the province’s renewable and low-carbon gas sector, this study confirms our belief in B.C.’s ability to become a North American leader in RNG and other low-carbon gases,” said Chase Edgelow, CEO of EverGen, a renewable energy company based in Vancouver.

“EverGen will continue to grow its production of RNG in B.C. and across Canada to help provide homes, business and industry with an effective and affordable way to decarbonize.”

The province’s CleanBC Roadmap, which calls for emissions reductions of 47 per cent in the building and industry sectors, looks at decarbonizing the gas system by increasing renewable and low-carbon gas supply.

Using biogas, hydrogen, renewable electricity, and natural gas reserves with carbon-capture technologies could open new opportunities to reduce emissions in B.C. and abroad.

“This was a remarkable collaboration involving the BC Government, FortisBC, BCBN and ENVINT Consulting,” said Dr. Scott Stanners, executive director at BCBN, in a statement. “It is partnerships such as these that bring us closer to the target in the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 and result in a greener future.”

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