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FortisBC wants new homes connected to renewable natural gas to cut emissions

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FortisBC Energy Inc. has applied to the British Columbia Utilities Commission for a revised renewable gas program that could connect all new homes to utilize renewable natural gas (RNG) derived from sources like purified methane at landfills.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-fighting proposal is aimed at providing home builders, real estate developers and new home owners with another path to meet provincial GHG emission reduction targets, according to FortisBC.

The near-600-page application also proposes that existing residential natural gas customers would automatically receive a small percentage of renewable gas as part of their gas supply by 2024.

“We realize there’s much to consider in the proposal we’ve put forward, but we’re excited about the prospect of a new generation of FortisBC customers knowing us as a renewable energy provider,” announced Joe Mazza, VP of energy supply and resource development at FortisBC, in a statement.

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FortisBC first developed the Biomethane Program in 2010 in response to provincial climate policy and also as a solution for customers wanting a lower carbon gas offering. During summer 2021, the B.C. government amended the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation to increase the production and use of renewable gas, and also began allowing utilities to make more RNG available to customers.

By capturing and repurposing methane, RNG is a third-party certified carbon-neutral energy source, and releases no new GHG emissions when burned, the company states. The methane can come from wastewater treatment plants, agricultural waste, landfill waste, wood waste, and residential or commercial organic waste.

Metro Vancouver, for instance, has unveiled several new RNG facilities. FortisBC is already producing RNG from landfills in Kelowna and Salmon Arm as part of a target to have RNG supply 15% of its natural gas production, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% come 2030.

For B.C.’s Salmon Arm Landfill RNG operation, FortisBC uses a made-in-B.C. technology called pressure swing adsorption to purify the biogas.

“Our review of our RNG program really dove into the outlook of renewable gas to serve British Columbians, including supply and demand for renewable gas, customer programs, supply cost and recovery mechanisms as well as current government energy policies and objectives,” explained Mazza.

Paul Miles, president of hardware manufacturer Miles Industries, noted that B.C. has one of the highest concentrations of natural gas fireplaces of any state or province in North America.

“Natural gas fireplaces are about the only domestically made appliance installed in new homes today,” Miles said in a statement. “The fireplace industry is a local success story and giving new homes the ability to have their fireplaces fueled with renewable gas will support carbon reduction and local manufacturing jobs, as well as provide energy security and home heating affordability for all British Columbians,” he added.

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