PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, Governor Kate Brown gathered with NW Natural and other supporters to ceremoniously sign another landmark bill for the State of Oregon: Senate Bill 98 allows utilities to acquire renewable natural gas on behalf of customers and is the first of its kind in the nation.
Renewable natural gas is a zero carbon resource produced from local organic materials like food, agricultural and forestry waste, wastewater, or landfills, which can be added into the existing natural gas system.
NW Natural, a subsidiary of NW Natural Holding Company (NWN), worked with legislators to propose SB 98 to create the path for renewable natural gas to become an increasing part of the state’s energy supply.
SB 98 outlines goals for adding as much as 30% renewable natural gas into the state’s pipeline system. There will be limits on the total amount paid for renewable natural gas that is overseen by regulators, protecting utilities and ratepayers from excessive costs as the market develops.
“Oregon has long been a place for innovation in environmental protections, and this legislation continues that tradition,” said Governor Kate Brown. “Allowing our natural gas utilities to acquire a renewable product for their customers brings us one step closer to a clean energy future.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased to lead the way on this important step in supporting our region’s move to more renewable energy, closing the loop on waste and investing in homegrown solutions that address climate change,” said David H. Anderson, president and CEO of NW Natural.
“I’m proud to have worked with NW Natural and others to shepherd through this innovative policy that carves a renewable energy path for other states to follow,” said State Senator Michael Dembrow (District 23), chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “This legislation will also create new, sustainable job opportunities throughout the state as this burgeoning local industry develops.”
“It’s essential that natural gas companies invest in renewable technologies to reduce greenhouse gas impacts and this is an important step,” said Meredith Connolly, Oregon director of Climate Solutions. “We appreciate NW Natural’s leadership to develop meaningful plans for clean energy solutions, including this piece of legislation.”
How it works
The new law sets voluntary renewable natural gas goals for Oregon’s natural gas utilities. Additionally, it:
- Allows utility investment in the interconnection of renewable natural gas production
- Supports targets of 15% by 2030, 20% by 2035 and 30% by 2050
- Provides local communities a potential revenue source to turn their waste into energy
“SB 98 is a groundbreaking piece of legislation,” explains Nina Kapoor, director of State Government Affairs for the national Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas. “Several states have advanced policies in recent years to support renewable natural gas, however, the Oregon law goes further than any other by setting clear goals for renewable natural gas procurement.”
Natural gas utilities are regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon and under current rules have an obligation to deliver the least-cost commodity to customers. This has been a barrier to purchasing and distributing renewable natural gas to Oregon customers, which can cost more in the same way that renewable electricity can cost more.
The market for renewable natural gas is fairly new but growing quickly. There are about 100 projects nationwide, and that’s expected to increase by 50% over the next year. Renewable natural gas is being prioritized as a main energy source for space heating in places like SeaTac Airport, and is being used in fleets like UPS and Waste Management. UPS recently made the largest commitment yet to use it for 40% of its total ground fuel purchases by 2025.
What is Renewable natural gas?
Renewable natural gas is a zero carbon resource produced from local, organic materials like food, agricultural and forestry waste, wastewater, or landfills. As these materials decompose, they produce methane. That methane can be captured, conditioned to pipeline quality and delivered in the existing pipeline system to vehicles, and homes and businesses where it can be used in existing appliances and equipment. This closes the loop on waste and provides a renewable energy option for the natural gas system, in the same way that wind and solar are used to generate renewable electricity.
How much renewable natural gas is possible?
Last year, the Oregon Department of Energy released its first inventory of technical potential and estimated there are enough sources statewide to produce nearly 50 billion cubic feet (BCF) of renewable natural gas. That’s equivalent to the total amount of natural gas used by all Oregon residential customers today. Read the study.
Does NW Natural currently have renewable natural gas on its system?
Soon. We plan to begin accepting homegrown renewable natural gas onto our pipeline system through several projects by 2020.
We’re working with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, operator of the City of Portland’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant. Some of the renewable natural gas generated here will be used as fuel for City vehicles, while the remainder will be injected onto NW Natural’s system.
We’re also working with the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, a partnership of the cities of Eugene and Springfield and Lane County, to bring renewable natural gas onto the system, generated from methane produced during the wastewater treatment process.
Enabling the way for hydrogen
Senate Bill 98 will support all forms of renewable natural gas including renewable hydrogen, which is made from excess wind, solar and hydro power. Renewable hydrogen can be used for the transportation system, industrial use, or blended into the natural gas pipeline system.
ABOUT NW NATURAL HOLDINGS
Northwest Natural Holding Company, (NWN) (NW Natural Holdings), is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and through its subsidiaries has been doing business for 160 years in the Pacific Northwest. It owns NW Natural Gas Company (NW Natural), NW Natural Water Company, LLC (NW Natural Water), and other business interests and activities.
NW Natural is a local distribution company that currently provides natural gas service to approximately two million people in more than 140 communities through more than 750,000 meters in Oregon and Southwest Washington with one of the most modern pipeline systems in the nation. NW Natural consistently leads the industry with high J.D. Power & Associates customer satisfaction scores.
NW Natural has 20 Bcf of storage in Oregon with 4 Bcf supporting renewables. NW Natural Holdings’ subsidiaries own and operate 35 Bcf of underground gas storage capacity.
NW Natural Water currently provides water distribution service to approximately 45,000 people through 17,700 connections. To date, NW Natural Water has acquired seven water distribution utilities and a wastewater company with several additional acquisitions pending. Upon closing current outstanding transactions, cumulatively, NW Natural Water expects to have invested $70 million and serve nearly 47,000 people through approximately 18,300 connections in the Pacific Northwest. Additional information regarding our water business is available at nwnaturalwater.com.
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