By: The Working Forest Staff
Surrey, B.C. ̶ Under a new proposal put forward by FortisBC Energy Inc. (FortisBC) to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), every newly constructed home connecting to the gas system would automatically receive 100 percent renewable gas for the lifespan of the building. The approval of this proposal would mark a new era in the evolution of the company’s renewable energy programs.
Renewable gas, which includes Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) available in the gas system today and hydrogen, syngas, and lignin which could be delivered by the gas system in the future, can help dramatically cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from homes and businesses without changing out heating equipment and supports the objectives of the province’s CleanBC Roadmap. If approved, this change would provide home builders, real estate developers, and new homeowners with another path to meet provincial GHG emission reduction targets.
“If approved by the BCUC, this would give every British Columbian a choice on how best to reduce GHG emissions from their new home. We realize there’s much to consider in the proposal we’ve put forward but we’re excited about the prospect of a new generation of FortisBC customers knowing us as a renewable energy provider,” said Joe Mazza, vice-president of energy supply and resource development at FortisBC.
The proposal was part of the second phase of an ongoing regulatory proceeding regarding RNG customer rates and a comprehensive review of FortisBC’s RNG program. FortisBC has committed to increasing the amount of renewable gas in its system and reducing the amount of conventional natural gas used by its customers. The company is currently on pace to exceed its target of having 15 percent of its gas supply being renewable by 2030 and is working towards having about 75 percent of its supply be renewable by 2050.
The application also proposes that existing residential natural gas customers would automatically receive a small percentage of renewable gas as part of their gas supply by 2024. FortisBC’s existing voluntary RNG program (which was North America’s first) will continue, providing customers with the option to select how much additional renewable gas they would like to receive.
Renewable Natural Gas is produced by capturing methane released from decaying organic material and purifying it, allowing it to blend seamlessly into the existing gas system. By capturing and repurposing methane, RNG is third-party certified carbon-neutral energy and releases no new GHG emissions when burned. As more RNG is added to the system, it displaces conventional natural gas and lowers GHG emissions associated with the gas system. Using RNG to reduce household GHG emissions eliminates any need for expensive retrofits required to fuel switch and provides lower month-to-month energy costs compared to other carbon-neutral options.
“Our review of our RNG program really dove into the outlook of renewable gas to serve British Columbians, including supply and demand for renewable gas, customer programs, supply cost and recovery mechanisms as well as current government energy policies and objectives,” explained Mazza. “We see the potential for renewable gases, like RNG, to accelerate the goals of the government’s CleanBC Roadmap in an innovative and affordable way by using an existing system that moves and stores energy incredibly well.”
FortisBC has made significant progress in increasing RNG supply in its gas system, tripling its supply over the course of 2021 and expecting a similar increase in 2022. With new supply consistently being added and a steady stream of applications for new supply in the regulatory process, new homes will be able to receive 100 percent renewable gas as supply continues to climb. As more forms of renewable gas are developed, more conventional natural gas will be displaced as low carbon and carbon-free renewable gases take on a more prominent role.
To participate in the regulatory process regarding FortisBC’s application or any energy-related matter, visit the BCUC website at bcuc.com. To learn more about Renewable Natural Gas, visit the FortisBC website at fortisbc.com/RNG.
“Renewable gas is not only carbon neutral. It can be delivered through existing and proven infrastructure to safely heat homes and businesses with low-emissions energy. The City of Burnaby actively supports opportunities in the low carbon industry, especially ones that can produce immediate results in progressing the City’s Climate Action and Affordable Housing Plans.” – James Lota, director, engineering at the City of Burnaby.
“British Columbia has the highest concentration of natural gas fireplaces of any state or province in North America. Natural gas fireplaces are about the only domestically made appliance installed in new homes today. The fireplace industry is a local success story and giving new homes the ability to have their fireplaces fueled with renewable gas will support carbon reduction and local manufacturing jobs as well as provide energy security and home heating affordability for all British Columbians.” – Paul Miles, president, at Miles Industries
“The building community has seen an increase of green building policies, ranging from the raw construction materials down to the end energy consumption of the homes they build. Our members advocate the importance of being economically and socially responsible while at the same time maintaining affordability and we believe FortisBC has proposed a cost-effective option that will help members meet specific climate targets. FortisBC’s application for the option to permanently allocate 100% renewable gas to new homes will help our members construct homes in a way that is economically and socially responsible, helping both the environment and encouraging housing affordability in our communities” – Jennifer Cotton, executive officer, Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Fraser Valley