CPUC sets biomethane targets for utilities
The decision establishes a biomethane procurement programme carefully crafted to help achieve California’s SLCP goals, which call for a 40% reduction in methane and other SLCPs by 2030.
Renewable gas procurement will reduce otherwise uncontrolled methane and black carbon emissions in the state’s waste, landfill, agricultural and forest management sectors. These sectors are responsible for more than 75% of the state’s methane emissions, according to data published by the California Air Resources Board in 2019.
Senate Bill 1440 (Hueso, 2018) authorises the CPUC to adopt biomethane procurement targets for the gas utilities it regulates, and Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, 2014) requires California to reduce methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. The biomethane will be used to displace some of the fossil natural gas utilities supply to their customers.
Specifically, the decision establishes short-term and medium-term procurement goals. The short-term 2025 biomethane procurement target is 17.6 billion cubic feet of biomethane, corresponding to 8 million tons of organic waste diverted annually from landfills. Each utility will be responsible for procuring a percentage of the total under its proportionate share of natural gas deliveries.
The medium-term 2030 target for biomethane procurement is 72.8 billion cubic feet per year. This higher amount will help the state achieve its goal to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030. It reflects approximately 12% of current residential and small businesses – known as ‘core gas customers – gas usage in 2020.
As biomethane from dairies is currently incentivised in other state initiatives, with this decision, it may be procured to satisfy only the medium-term target, after the utility has procured sufficient biomethane from organic waste diverted from landfills to diver its share of 8 million tons of organic waste. For the medium-term goal, a ‘ceiling’ has been established on dairy biomethane of 4% of total biomethane procurement. The CPUC highlighted that measures are required “to avoid adverse environmental impacts to air and water quality from any dairies that provide biomethane”.
“Tackling methane and other SLCP is critical given our climate crisis,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen, who is assigned to the proceeding. “This decision will reduce emissions from some of the state’s leading methane sources.”
CPUC president Alice Busching Reynolds said: “It is formidable to decarbonise because carbon has been the input and output of so much of our economy for so long.
“The reality comes into even more focus as we move beyond the easier first steps into the more complex ones. This decision considers a variety of different interests and viewpoints and strikes a good balance to advance the critical goal of decarbonisation.”