In this episode we get the chance to talk with Johannes Escudero. He is the Founder, CEO & Executive Director – Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, a North American Association dedicated to advocate for sustainable development, deployment and utilization of renewable natural gas, this promising fuel, more encouraged now than ever.
He had the honor to have served for the State Assembly, and he specifically worked for a subset on renewable energy. In that position on 2009, Johannes found a bill related to Biogas that never received a public hearing, so after reaching out to this bill stakeholders he and his co-founder David Cox realized that there was an opportunity to create a new policies platform and crystalize a new coalition with a legislative strategy.
The association came to be on 2011, and it’s been an enticing journey, which is explained on very much detail on this week’s podcast episode.
Johannes takes us back to the first Renewable Natural Gas project put in place in the United States, the Freshkills Landfill on Staten Island, NY. In that place still remains a plant that injects natural gas into the utility pipeline, serving thousands of users with renewable energy.
Biogas in the United States started with a basis of 30 projects that were developed from 1982 until 2011, and just a couple different tax credits incentive plans were put in place. Then the RPS’s (Renewable Portfolio Standards) came, where the government requires a specific amount of power being generated with a certain percentage of renewable energy, being California the most aggressive programs, requiring 33% of power being produced from renewable sources.
Meet the RPS Policies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve669OA7gO8
With the help of government policies, the development of RNG started to show. But even though in 2019 there are more than 100 projects producing RNG already, the level of awareness today, in acknowledging renewable natural gas as a renewable energy is still very low.
On the other hand, the potential for renewable Biomethane is huge, 28,000 feedstock sources remain with a huge potential of still capture its methane. We are talking about 2,000 landfills, 8,000 large farms, and more than 17,000 wastewater treatment facilities where best case scenario there is a system in place capturing some of the Biogas, and maybe generating some power for its own operation, but worst case scenario it’s being flared or maybe even vented.
For Johannes, the argument here is that we have to recognize we are producing this methane, and we should share the cost to mitigate this issue. We have to be prepared as a society of knowing what to do, and how to capture and convert it into something useful.
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Several achievements have been a part of the RNG Coalition success, including for example one case back in 2014, where the coalition successfully advocated for the inclusion of renewable natural gas feedstocks to qualify as a cellulosic biofuel under the federal renewable gas programs. Reinforcing every year that the simple fact of providing an education platform and advocacy voice for the protection, preservation and promotion of the renewable natural gas industry really pays off.
After all these years, we are starting to notice that whole new market is beginning to appear where renewable natural gas is the key player, such as renewable ag feed products, renewable plastic products, and many others renewable and bio-based chemical producers that are looking for better options based on their very own sustainability goals. These options offer the potential to significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and some pathways include the production of construction materials, plastics, chemicals, and algae-based products (e.g. animal feed, and fertilizers).
With regard of the vehicle industry, today there are two policies that are driving RNG Production as a transportation fuel. At the federal level is the Renewable Fuel Standard, and at state level there are standards like the California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which are great examples of incentives and policies to consider for other countries.
Very interestingly, Johannes agrees with supporting electrical vehicles, with the previous understanding that those can be powered by renewable sources or energy derived from RNG, and also realizes that there is a more compelling use case for vehicles on the medium and heavy duty sector, but in that case, availability is the main concern. The commitment of the Coalition is to keep informing elected officials to include a role for renewable natural gas in the American Energy Portfolio.
To finalize the interview Johannes told us the amazing story of how the injection of Renewable Natural Gas to the pipeline grids was prohibited in California since 1988 (see Regulation). It was basically illegal to inject it, but ironically there were projects in place which transported RNG from Texas to California. These scenarios, that are so common in many places around the world were the perfect argument for the creation of the RNG Coalition.
Over the course of this enlightening conversation with Johannes, it was demonstrated that Renewable Natural gas is facing technical impediments and several cost barriers, but we can clearly see at this moment, that RNG is an amazing and sustainable solution, and hundreds of projects continuously producing this fuel are the proof that it works.
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