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Decarbonizing the building sector with natural gas in British Columbia

Renewable gases offer the chance for an economic avenue towards a lower carbon future

By Jason Wolfe, Director, Energy Solutions at FortisBC

Like many industries, British Columbia (B.C.) builders and developers are under pressure to reduce emissions. Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from FortisBC is a drop in fuel that can meet building greenhouse gas reduction targets and builders do not have to change any of their equipment or processes to take advantage of RNG and lower emissions. According to B.C.’s provincial government, approximately 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the province come from homes and buildings.[1] While there is no silver bullet when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are various ways to tackle the problem. FortisBC, a leading energy solutions provider in British Columbia, has been advocating for a diversified pathway which uses existing infrastructure to carry renewable energy, like RNG.

Different jurisdictions will have varying approaches based on their own individual circumstances and B.C. is in a unique situation. The province has a wealth of hydroelectric resources that provide clean electricity coupled with a world class reserve of natural gas in the province’s northeast. What is perhaps most remarkable, is the abundant renewable gas supply that is available in B.C.

Renewable energy solutions

Renewable Natural Gas reduces greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. By capturing and processing it for use, we are able to displace conventional natural gas that is currently underground and instead use the carbon energy that is already in our ecosystem. So while RNG shares the same properties as conventional natural gas when burned, it is carbon neutral over its lifecycle and adds no additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The full lifecycle of RNG makes it a carbon neutral fuel. In fact, Offsetters has designated FortisBC’s RNG as carbon neutral.

FortisBC works with builders, developers and industry professionals to understand their needs while working to reach provincial government emissions targets. Using RNG can help buildings meet strict provincial government emissions targets. And while reducing emissions is top of mind, what is and should be equally as important is energy affordability. Renewable Natural Gas is more cost effective than electricity and, it being carbon neutral, is not subject to B.C.’s carbon tax. It provides buildings an affordable and environmentally conscious energy choice. Builders and developers can meet action goals using FortisBC’s suite of lower carbon and renewable energy solutions, particularly by using RNG in their builds. It’s an easy solution, because they can continue to use conventional appliances and avoid having to choose specialized equipment.

Increasing supply to meet growing demand

FortisBC is working to bring on new sources of RNG supply. More than 10,000 British Columbian homes and businesses are receiving RNG and supply and demand is steadily growing. By 2025, we expect to have enough RNG to supply 267,000 homes.

To increase supply more quickly, FortisBC has signed out-of-province supply agreements that will bring in RNG from Alberta, Ontario and the United States, promoting the growth of the North American renewable gas market and providing access to new sources of RNG beyond provincial borders.

We’re also exploring the potential of other renewable gases as we seek to increase the amount of renewable energy carried by our gas infrastructure. Hydrogen, for example, could be a staple in our renewable gas portfolio. FortisBC is currently working with the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus to study how to safely integrate hydrogen into the natural gas system. Displacing conventional natural gas with renewable gas is also critical in having 15 per cent of our gas supply be renewable and carbon neutral by 2030, a target that FortisBC is working towards.

Clean energy future

It may be reassuring to know that a clean energy future does not have to be an either/or scenario. It is possible to provide energy options that could provide a gateway to current and future sustainable energy solutions. Renewable gases can enable buildings in the future to have access to affordable and reliable energy while meeting the strict greenhouse gas emissions intensity targets being brought forward by B.C.’s government. This means builders and developers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions effectively and affordably while still providing customers with choice.

So, it is with these key considerations in mind that builders and developers should consider building with natural gas as a good solution for meeting B.C’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets laid out in the Province’s CleanBC plan. In fact, it can be a desirable choice for the end-user so they can take advantage of lifestyle appliances such as natural gas fire pits or natural gas barbeques.

Learn more about Renewable Natural Gas in B.C