October 11, 2016

Landmark Change for Renewable Gas Markets in the UK

Renewable gas holds a nascent status in the UK, but a recent change in rules for reporting greenhouse gas emissions may provide a promising route for its expansion via enabling large consumers to demonstrate reduction in their carbon footprints by using biomethane.

The development is expected to facilitate and incentivize expansion of the UK market for biomethane — a renewable gas produced through the anaerobic digestion (AD) of organic waste and sometimes referred to as green gas.

The change relates to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol — the global standard used to measure, manage, and report GHG emissions — and means that it will now recognize Green Gas Certificates in the reporting of onsite GHG emissions.

Green Gas Certificates are used to track the use of grid-injected biomethane and are issued by the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS). In having these certificates recognized by the GHG Protocol, large organizations utilizing biomethane may effectively report near-zero GHG emissions for gas combusted onsite.

The GGCS provides biomethane producers a framework for the sale of green gas injected into the grid; it additionally tracks biomethane through the supply chain in order to provide assurance to those buying the gas that it is of a renewable origin.

Ciaran Burns, certification manager for GGCS told Renewable Energy World:

“The biomethane sector in the UK is still a new market, with the first commercial plant only entering into operation in October 2012. In a little over three years we now have 65 plants in operation and expect around 80 in place by the end of 2016 with an injection capacity of around 3.5 TWh, which is equivalent to around four LNG tankers from Qatar.”

So-called Biomethane to Grid (BtG) projects are supported through the UK government’s non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

“At the moment the biomethane sector is highly dependent on support through the RHI, but with few alternatives to decarbonize the gas grid it is viewed as a key technology going forward,” Burns said, adding that the UK Treasury have previously committed financial support up to April 2021 for around 80 new projects (3.2 TWh new capacity). Amidst on-going consultations over the future of the RHI, this support remains uncertain. 

Burns views the recent developments as encouraging future decarbonization.

“We believe our work in developing the potential of GGCS Green Gas Certificates as a tool for supporting companies with their GHG reporting will help companies build their strategies for reducing and decarbonizing gas use — similar to what we have seen in the renewable electricity sector over the past decade,” Burns said.

According to Burns, it will also potentially help link companies and public sector organizations to specific biomethane to grid projects — establishing long-term contracts for the purchase of their output.

Illustrating this, Burns said, “This could be where an organization’s food waste streams, for instance, are transported to a specific biomethane to grid scheme, where the gas produced is then bought by the same organization that contributed the waste — which is all tracked by green gas certificates.”

These relationships, he added, “are exactly what we would like to see grow as this would provide greater financial stability to developers of AD/biomethane to grid projects.” 

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