The Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is about to begin selling renewable natural gas for the first time at the 25 utility-owned natural gas vehicle fueling stations across its service territory, as well as at six fueling stations in the San Diego area.
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is produced from the methane generated in landfills, wastewater treatment plants, food processing and dairies and depending on its source, can be low-carbon or in some cases, even carbon-negative. It can be used to fuel trucks and buses, to generate electricity, to heat homes and businesses, and to cook. Capturing the methane from these waste sources and using it for fuel has two benefits: It keeps methane, a greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change, and it reduces the use of traditionally-sourced natural gas.
Last month, the utility received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission for a pilot program to purchase the renewable fuel and capture the additional environmental credits generated. It just published a Request for Offer (RFO), and expects to complete gas purchase agreements soon.
Because renewable natural gas can be stored and delivered through the existing natural gas infrastructure, SoCalGas can help California reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the state’s renewable energy and air quality goals in a cost-effective way. In addition, unlike solar and wind energy, renewable natural gas is available when needed—day or night.
Renewable natural gas i important for reducing emissions from California’s transportation sector, which is responsible for about 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than 80 % of its smog-forming (NOx) emissions. The latest generation of natural gas engines for heavy-duty vehicles can reduce smog-forming emissions by more than 90% compared to the cleanest heavy-duty diesel trucks. When these ultra-low emissions natural gas trucks are fueled with renewable natural gas, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by at least 80%.
Near zero emission natural gas trucks are helping achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and clean the air around California’s transportation corridors. Because of this, California provides incentive funding to help trucking fleets transition to renewable natural gas. Close to 70% of natural gas fleets in California are fueled with renewable natural gas.
Creating renewable energy for California
As California policymakers have sought to expand the production and use of renewable energy, SoCalGas has been working to expand the production and use of renewable natural gas in California. The utility recently launched a video on renewable natural gas, and worked with waste management company CR&R Environmental to begin injecting renewable natural gas produced at CR&R’s anaerobic digestion facility in Perris, Calif., into SoCalGas pipelines. In June, SoCalGas joined two French utilities and a Canadian natural gas utility in a new collaboration to advance the research and development of renewable natural gas and technologies such as power-to-gas. SoCalGas also assists California fleets in obtaining state funds designated for the purchase of near-zero emissions heavy-duty natural gas trucks.
SoCalGas has supported the implementation of California Senate Bill (SB) 1383, considered the most aggressive law in the nation designed to tackle short-lived climate pollutants. Last year, SoCalGas worked with other natural gas utilities in the state to solicit the dairy biomethane pilot projects required by the legislation.
Research shows nine out of 10 California families use natural gas in their homes and prefer it by a margin of 4 to 1 over electricity. In addition, strong majorities of consumers – nearly 80% – prefer to use natural gas for cooking in their homes, and nearly two-thirds of consumers believe gas is their most affordable energy choice.
According to a recent study by Navigant Consulting, replacing 16% of the traditional natural gas supply with renewable gas can achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions equivalent to converting 100 % of buildings to electric-only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in- and out-of-state resources, the renewable natural gas strategy is three times more cost effective in reducing GHGs than an electrification pathway.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, SoCalGas is the largest natural gas distribution utility in the United States. SoCalGas delivers natural gas service to 21.8 million customers across 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California, where more than 90% of residents use natural gas for heating, hot water, cooking, drying clothes or other uses. Natural gas delivered through the company’s pipelines also plays a key role in providing electricity to Californians—about 60 % of electric power generated in the state comes from gas-fired power plants.
SoCalGas is committed to investing in its natural gas system infrastructure, while keeping bills affordable for our customers. From 2013 through 2017, the company spent nearly $6 billion to upgrade and modernize its natural gas system to enhance safety and reliability. The company is also committed to being a leader in the region’s clean energy future, and is working to accelerate the use of renewable natural gas from dairy farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants and the development of renewable energy storage technologies. SoCalGas is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), an energy services holding company based in San Diego.