Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) today announced a bold plan to replace 20% of its traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas (RNG) by 2030. Today's announcement is part of SoCalGas' vision to be the cleanest natural gas utility in North America, delivering affordable and increasingly renewable energy to its customers.
To kickstart the plan, SoCalGas will pursue regulatory authority to implement a broad renewable natural gas procurement program with a goal of replacing 5% of its natural gas supply with RNG by 2022. SoCalGas also recently filed a request with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to allow customers to purchase renewable natural gas for their homes. SoCalGas aims to have CPUC approval of its voluntary program by the end of the year.
What is Renewable Natural Gas?
Renewable natural gas is a clean fuel produced from our waste streams (i.e., sewers and food waste, as well as dairy and agriculture waste) and can be used like traditional natural gas to heat homes and businesses, for cooking, and to fuel trucks and buses.
RNG reduces GHG emissions because it can take more GHG emissions out of the air than it emits as an energy source. In 2016, Governor Brown signed legislation to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including methane from organic sources. The law requires 40% of methane from sewage treatment plants, landfills and agriculture to be captured, with provisions for energy delivery to customers.
SoCalGas' commitment to develop RNG is part of a broader, integrated vision for the future of clean energy that keeps energy affordable, expands consumer choice, and develops long-term and seasonal renewable energy storage using existing infrastructure.
"Our vision is to become the cleanest natural gas utility in North America, delivering affordable and increasingly renewable energy to our customers," said Bret Lane, SoCalGas' chief executive officer. "Californians deserve clean, safe, and reliable energy that every family can afford. Today's announcement is an important step toward delivering a clean energy future that works for every family and business in our state."
Sufficient RNG Supplies To Accelerate Development
With a commitment to replace 20% of its traditional natural gas supply with RNG, SoCalGas aims to accelerate the development of in-state renewable gas projects and achieve significant emissions reductions. Today more than 80% of methane emissions in California come from agriculture, dairies, wastewater treatment plants and other organic sources.
A 2016 study by the University of California, Davis calculated that California has the potential to produce nearly 100 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year of renewable natural gas. 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 RNG 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.
Positive Responses from the Community
"We applaud SoCalGas' commitment to have 5% of their supplies be renewable natural gas by 2022. Our campuses currently rely on gas-fired power plants to keep the lights on," said David Phillips, associate vice president of energy and sustainability of the University of California's Office of the President. "Decarbonizing our gas supplies can be an effective strategy to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Widely available renewable natural gas will bring us and the rest of California closer to carbon-neutrality."
"What a great goal! California needs more renewable energy, and we need all the renewable natural gas we can put into the pipeline. We welcome SoCalGas' announcement and look forward to the day renewable natural gas is available to all customers," said Joe Lyou, president and chief executive officer of the Coalition for Clean Air.
"SoCalGas is taking a bold step in the fight against climate change," said Maria Salinas, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "Businesses are often looking for ways to be both cost efficient and environmentally responsible. SoCalGas strikes the right balance with their vision for 2030, becoming the largest and cleanest natural gas utility in the country and helping Los Angeles continue to be a leader in environmental standards."
"California has a population of 40 million people, converting the waste we produce into clean energy for use in our homes and businesses is necessary if we are going to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2045," said Dr. Matt Rahn of Cal State San Marcos, Environmental Leadership Institute. "Creating a balanced energy portfolio that includes renewable natural gas will help meet the state's climate goals."
"Tulare County is in a vital position to produce renewable natural gas from one of our largest industries, dairy," said Paul Saldana, president and chief executive officer of the Tulare County EDC. "We are proud to be part of the solution to climate change in California."
"SoCalGas continues to demonstrate great leadership with their goal to be the cleanest natural gas utility in the country," said Alicia Berhow, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs of Orange County Business Council. "Ensuring renewable natural gas is available to customers will help preserve consumer choice and provide affordable, and increasingly renewable energy to homes and businesses."