Annual Review of Canadian Biogas Industry
The past year has been a time of considerable progress for the biogas industry. Several climate change initiatives have been brought forward by the federal and provincial governments, and advances have been made in respect to several specific renewable energy initiatives for which the Canadian Biogas Association has been a major player.
In Ontario, the government announced its Climate Change Action Plan in June, setting aside CA$ 100 million for the renewable natural gas (RNG) industry, $100 million for natural gas infrastructure, and $20 million for a pilot program using methane from agricultural materials or food wastes for transportation purposes. Ontario also implemented a cap-and-trade system, effective Jan. 1, that will support the CCAP initiatives. A number of decisions related to the CCAP have yet to be made by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, including specific renewable fuel content percentage, target timelines and how CCAP funds will be allocated.
The Ontario government brought forward a number of other energy policies in 2016, which may create a more conducive atmosphere for further development of the Canadian biogas industry, such as changes to net-metering to encourage biogas developers to increase production for their own use. While the Large Renewable Procurement Program was suspended (projects greater than 500 kilowatts (kW), the Small Feed-in Tariff Program’s (projects less than 500 kW) final procurement call saw 74 biogas applications totalling 16.5 MW, moving into the review process.
There was movement advancing the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, and commitment to develop a food and organic waste framework. The Ontario government is also reviewing an environmental activity sector registry approach that may allow smaller biogas projects to undergo a more flexible approval process.
Other provinces also implemented climate change policies that encourage further development of renewable energy, including biogas. In August, the British Columbia Utilities Commission allowed for a rate-base change for RNG, lowering the premium for RNG to voluntary customers. B.C. will also be amending the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation to encourage emission reductions in transportation, allowing utilities to double the total pool of incentives available to convert commercial fleets to natural gas, when the new incentives go toward vehicles using 100 percent RNG.
In Alberta, the Climate Leadership Plan, effective Jan. 1, encourages renewable energy development by establishing a target of 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. The CBA voiced the need to include small-scale biogas (less than 5 MW) in existing programs, to recognize the economic advantage of biogas and the delivery of greater GHG reductions, to assess the self-sustainability of all renewable energy forms on an equal footing, and to consider alternative means to valuing environmental attributes that are simple and effective.
Quebec’s Energy Policy 2030 has four objectives: to decarbonate Quebec, to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, to make full use of Quebec’s natural resources and to develop its green economy. The Quebec government wants renewable energy to meet 61 percent of Quebec’s needs by 2030 (it currently stands at just over 47 percent). Quebec wants to reduce fossil fuel usage, particularly in transportation, by electrification of transportation, the use of natural gas in trucking and the expansion and increased use of public transit.
At the end of 2016, the federal government announced the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which sets forth actions such as making greater use of renewable power, reducing methane emissions from oil and gas, protecting forests, wetlands, agricultural areas and reducing emissions from government operations. The objective of this framework is to reduce GHG emissions and contribute to meeting or exceeding Canada’s 2030 climate change target of a 30 percent reduction below 2005 greenhouse gas levels. The federal government also announced a commitment to develop a clean fuel standard to reduce the carbon footprint of the fuels supplied in Canada. Consultations will begin early 2017.
During 2016, the federal government and several provincial governments committed to more actively opening up export markets to energy products. This is an objective of the federal Pan-Canadian Framework, as well as the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan. Several Ontario government Ministers recently met with the CBA, other renewable energy associations and private companies to discuss the barriers to and ways of encouraging the export of renewable energy products.
The CBA has also prepared detailed prebudget submissions for both the federal and Ontario governments in 2017, recommending more funding to develop infrastructure for the biogas industry.
In summary, during the past year, the Canadian biogas industry has been pleased that federal and provincial governments are placing more emphasis on designing major initiatives to increase their supply of renewable energy, devising more effective energy export policies, moving toward streamlining environmental approval processes and providing more funding to encourage the development of RNG.
Contact: Jennifer Green
Executive Director, Canadian Biogas Association