California bill a win for biogas

By Anna Austin | October 12, 2011

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 489, a law that allows small-scale biomass and biogas projects (1 megawatt or less) to qualify for the state’s Net Energy Metering program.

NEM allows a customer/generator to receive a financial credit for power generated by their on-site system and fed back to the utility. The credit is used to offset the customer's electricity bill. 

Previously, the NEM program applied only to wind and solar power generators. SB 489, or the Renewable Energy Equity Act, sponsored by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Calif., allows all kinds of renewable energy forms to qualify for NEM.

“The most important component of this bill is its name,” said Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council. “Parity among all renewables is extremely important to be able to compete fairly in the market place.”

Serfass said he believes the majority of biogas projects will now be eligible for NEM, particularly farm- and wastewater-based projects. “If you look at the number of farm-based digesters in California, the number is about 11, which is really small considering what is possible. Out of the three main biogas feedstocks in California—ag waste, municipal solid waste and wastewater—two are directly related to the population, and California has a lot of people. The potential is massive.”  

There are at least 30 landfills in the state that don’t have energy projects on them right now, according to Serfass. He added that the ABC is still looking into the exact impacts the bill could have, but said that it would definitely help new projects get installed and  into service. “This is a step in the right direction,” he said.