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Canada's natural gas utilities propose target for renewable natural gas content

The natural gas delivered to Canadian homes, transportation markets, businesses, and industry will soon include more renewable energy in it thanks to a new national renewable natural gas (RNG) target announced by the Canadian Gas Association.

Canada's natural gas utilities have set a target of 5 per cent RNG-blended natural gas in the pipeline distribution system by 2025 and 10 per cent by 2030. Nationally, the increased RNG content would result in 14 megatonnes (MT) of greenhouse gas emission reductions per year by 2030, equivalent to removing 3 million passenger cars from the road.

RNG, a 100 per cent renewable energy source, is natural gas currently produced from organic waste from farms, forests, landfills, and water treatment plants. The gas is captured, cleaned, and blended into natural gas distribution pipelines and used in the same way as traditionally delivered natural gas by homes, businesses, transportation fleets, and industry. There are no special upgrades to furnaces, water heaters and other equipment needed to use RNG. This is one example of how natural gas utilities and the natural gas distribution system have an important role in Canada's innovative energy delivery system of the future.

"Canada's natural gas delivery industry recognizes that increasing RNG content in the natural gas delivered to Canadian customers is a pathway towards meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," said Timothy M. Egan, President and CEO of the Canadian Gas Association. "We look forward to continuing discussions with government, RNG technology companies and other stakeholders to ensure that they appreciate that the gas system is a mechanism for renewable energy delivery – in fact it is often the most efficient and cost-effective means to deliver renewables," said Egan.

In 2013, Canadian natural gas utilities leveraged the expertise of Natural Resources Canada's CanmetENERGY who developed with industry the RNG Technology Roadmap for RNG Technology Roadmap for Canada. The Roadmap has been an instrumental tool in assisting industry to better understand the market and technology needs required for Canada to realize its RNG potential.

RNG can be produced, cleaned and injected into the natural gas distribution system at competitive costs compared to other renewable energy options. RNG costs between $10-25 per gigajoule (GJ) or 4-9 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) while recent renewable electricity contracts for utility scale solar and wind projects have been signed for $19 and $44/GJ or 7-16 cents/kWh. An added benefit is that RNG does not face issues of intermittency that other renewable energy sources face, and it can be easily stored in existing gas infrastructure, offering reliability and flexibility.

In British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, natural gas distribution utilities are currently blending RNG into their gas pipeline systems. By the end of 2017, 11 RNG projects in Canada will be online producing enough renewable fuel to meet the energy needs of 51,000 homes or supplying 137 million liters of renewable fuel for transportation markets.

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