New California program to develop 5 dairy digester RNG projects

By Erin Voegele | December 28, 2017

In mid-December, the California Public Utilities Commission established a new program that aims to reduce methane emissions from manure generated at dairies. The CPUC said the pilot program will incentivize at least five projects where dairy digesters produce renewable natural gas (RNG) from manure.

The program was adopted pursuant to SB 1383, which established a goal to reduce California’s methane emissions 40 percent by 2030. As part of this goal, the bill authorizes funding of the dairy biomethane pilot projects to demonstrate interconnection to the gas pipeline system. The pipeline infrastructure is needed to inject RNG into the utilities’ natural gas distribution system.

“This program helps turn a waste product into renewable energy. In addition to reducing emissions of methane, the pilot projects will help improve air and water quality in the Central Valley and other regions,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen, who is assigned to the proceeding. “Strong interagency coordination has allowed us to implement this in a very short timeframe.”

Under the program, an interagency committee that includes the CPUC, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture will select the pilot projects. The committee will choose projects based on an evaluation of the proposed business model, likely greenhouse gas reductions realized and cost effectiveness of achieving these reductions, environmental benefits, disadvantaged community benefits, and project readiness.

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) issued a statement noting it was selected to lead the solicitation process in coordination with other utilities.

"SoCalGas is excited to be selected by the CPUC to play a leading role in implementing this visionary legislation that will help meet the state's climate goals, drive innovation, and develop supplies of renewable natural gas for Californians,” said the utility in a statement. “The CPUC has established a program that will play an important part in reducing these methane emissions.”

"As the largest gas distributor in the nation, SoCalGas is positioned to make the infrastructure investments necessary to maximize the production and use of renewable natural gas,” the utility added. “We look forward to partnering with California dairies to develop the biomethane pilot programs this law requires and help build the market for renewable natural gas, contributing to accomplishment of our state's environmental objectives and priorities."