Executive Director, Canadian Biogas Association
Jennifer Green, Executive Director of the Canadian Biogas Association, sat down with Mediaplanet and shared her expertise on the biogas industry’s role in Canada and a clean-energy future.
What is biogas and why is the industry important in Canada?
Biogas is a renewable source of methane gas created when organic matter, such as food scraps or livestock manure, breaks down in an oxygen-free environment. Biogas can be used directly to generate renewable electricity or it can be captured and cleaned to create biomethane, also known as renewable natural gas (RNG), which can be used as a low-carbon alternative to the natural gas many Canadians use to heat their homes.
Canada has an established and growing biogas industry, with over 200 facilities located on farms, in municipalities, wastewater treatment systems, and landfill gas systems. These facilities reduce Canada’s carbon emissions, produce reliable energy, drive economic development in both rural and urban regions, and transform organic waste into a valuable resource.
How does biogas reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our environment?
Capturing and utilizing biogas is a powerful tool for reducing GHGs in a number of ways. It reduces some of the 13% of Canada’s GHG emissions that come from our buildings, which are heated with natural gas. Blending just 5% renewable natural gas into our natural gas networks could lead to 14 million tonnes of GHG reductions.
Biogas can also reduce transportation emissions, which account for 24% of Canada’s total. More than a third of these transportation emissions originate from heavy-duty trucks, where commercially proven and affordable RNG technology is increasingly being adopted.
Meanwhile, all of these emission reduction opportunities produce important co-benefits: reliable energy when and where Canadians need it, economic development opportunities in both rural and urban regions, and the transformation of waste into a valuable circular economy resource.
How else does biogas aid in economic development?
Biogas contributes to economic development by adding value to waste and creating new revenue streams for farmers and municipalities. In municipalities, biogas projects draw on a waste resource in landfills and wastewater treatment plants to create new revenue streams and economic opportunities. In farming communities, biogas plants help turn waste agricultural products into new value-added products and income diversification opportunities.
Biogas also offers economic and social stimulus to Canadians and plays important roles in local and rural communities, including investment in innovation, advancement in clean technologies, engagement of youth, and job creation. Realizing the full potential of biogas development can lead to 1,800 separate construction projects with a capital investment of $7 billion and economic spin-off of $21 billion to the Canadian economy, close to 17,000 construction jobs for a period of one year and 2,650 on-going long-term operational jobs, and 100 new and expanded Canadian companies including biogas system designers and developers, equipment suppliers, and laboratories.
Why should Canadian homeowners and business owners invest in clean energy?
Making an investment in clean energy, biogas, and RNG is more accessible than ever before. Natural gas utilities across Canada offer RNG programs to residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
Depending on the program, customers can opt for a small percentage of RNG to offset their carbon footprint or choose to purchase 100% RNG. RNG is delivered to the customer via the natural gas pipeline and since it’s chemically identical to natural gas, there are no special upgrades to furnaces, water heaters, and other equipment that uses the gas. Leveraging existing infrastructure assets makes RNG easier and more cost effective to integrate. RNG can be delivered today to homeowners and businesses without significant investment in new infrastructure — the same energy service with a climate-friendly fuel.
How does biogas offer innovation to waste management sectors in Canada?
Biogas offers innovation to waste management sectors by ensuring valuable organic material is not piling up in landfills, but instead creating new economic opportunities. Diverting organic material from landfills means fewer GHG emissions associated with the transportation and disposal of food waste, which also means avoiding potential methane emissions from the landfills.
An additional societal benefit of organic material diversion to biogas facilities includes preserving landfill space for other materials that cannot degrade. For biogas system operators, these organic materials are essential for fueling their biogas systems and producing clean, green energy. It’s a win-win.