CPUC Adopts Biomethane Procurement Program to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

The CPUC Decision requires utilities to procure 73 billion cubic feet of biomethane annually by 2030.

CPUC Decision Calls for 1,000 MW of New, “Firm” Renewables, Including Bioenergy

The CPUC’s Decision calls for 11,500 MW of new renewable power generation to offset the closure of California’s last nuclear power plant and several natural gas plants along the coast that use “once-through cooling.”  The Decision also calls for 1,000 MW from “firm” renewable power – bioenergy and geothermal – that is available when needed and has a capacity factor of at least 80 percent (is in operation 80% of the time throughout the year).  The new generation must be online by the end of 2026.

The requirement for firm renewable power begins on page 35 of the CPUC’s Decision on Mid-Term Reliability Procurement.

BAC Comments on the CPUC’s Biomethane Procurement Proposal

BAC submitted comments on the CPUC’s Staff Proposal on Biomethane Procurement.  The Staff Proposal recommends requiring California’s gas utilities to procure 75 billion cubic feet of biomethane annually by 2030.  That only represents 4 percent of California’s total gas use.  By comparison, state law requires that 60 percent of California’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030.  In comments on the Staff Proposal, BAC urges the Commission to:

  • Increase the biomethane procurement target to 150 BCF to help meet the state’s climate, clean energy, waste and wildfire reduction goals.
  • Include all eligible organic waste feedstocks.
  • Base program prices on the carbon intensity of the biomethane to prioritize the lowest carbon sources that help reduce climate super pollutants (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants).
  • Offer additional incentives to maximize the carbon reductions and other benefits of the program

To read BAC’s detailed comments, see R.13-02-008 BAC Comments on Phase 4A Staff Proposal

CPUC Proposes Biomethane Procurement Program

In June, the CPUC released a draft Staff Proposal on biomethane procurement.  The proposal recommends requiring the gas utilities to procure 75 billion cubic feet of biomethane annually by 2030, primarily from organic waste that is diverted from landfills and from landfill gas.  The Staff Proposal also recommends the inclusion of two pilot projects that convert forest waste to biomethane, which will help the state to meet its wildfire and black carbon reduction goals.  Unfortunately, the Staff Proposal excludes biomethane from dairy waste and does not address agricultural waste or urban wood waste at all.

See, CPUC’s Biomethane Procurement Staff Proposal

 

Air Board Adopts Plan to Phase Out Open Burning of Agricultural Waste in San Joaquin Valley

In late February, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan to phase out the open burning of agricultural waste in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region.  Open burning, which has increased nearly 500% in the past several years, is a major source of air and climate pollution in the Valley.  In fact, open burning of agricultural and forest waste is one of the largest sources of black carbon emissions – a powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutant that is 3200 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide and is also very harmful to public health, crops, forests, and more.

The Air Board’s plan calls specifically for:

  • A Clean Biomass/Bioenergy Collaborative across state agencies
  • Increased funding for bioenergy and other alternatives to open burning
  • Increased production of liquid and gaseous fuels from agricultural waste

See:  CARB Approved Plan to Phase Out Ag Burning (Feb2021)

California Finalizes Organic Waste Diversion Regulations

In 2016, California enacted Senate Bill 1383 to reduce the most damaging climate pollutants, known as Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.  The bill requires a 40 percent reduction in methane emissions and a 50 percent reduction in anthropogenic black carbon by 2030.  As part of the methane reduction requirement, the legislation requires a 75 percent reduction in organic landfill waste by 2025.  That means diverting more than 15 million tons of organic waste currently going to landfills and converting it to energy and compost instead.

CalRecycle’s regulations to implement the organic waste diversion requirements were just finalized by the state’s Office of Administrative Law.  The key provisions related to bioenergy are contained in Article 12 (beginning on page 92), which sets out requirements for local jurisdictions to procure bioenergy and/or compost generated from the diverted organic waste.

See:  CalRecycle SB 1383 regulations (final)

CPUC Issues Proposed Decision on Voluntary RNG Tariff

The CPUC has issued a Proposed Decision that would adopt a voluntary tariff for customers of SoCalGas and SDG&E to choose to purchase biomethane.  The tariff requires that at least half of the biomethane purchased by the utilities is generated in California and half of that portion must come from sources other than landfill gas to help California meet is Short-Lived Climate Pollutant and waste reduction goals.  The tariff will include biomethane generate from biomass conversion (gasification and pyrolysis) as well as the biomethane from anaerobic digestion of organic waste.  The Proposed Decision would approve the voluntary tariff as a three-year pilot program and will then assess whether to make it permanent or replace with a biomethane procurement program.

See:  Proposed Decision on voluntary RNG tariff

CA Board of Forestry Adopts Biomass Utilization Plan

On November 4, the California Board of Forestry adopted a forest biomass utilization plan that recommends many actions to put California’s extensive forest waste to beneficial re-use, including numerous bioenergy recommendations.  Some of the most important recommendations related to bioenergy are:

  • Consolidated permitting
  • State procurement of bioenergy
  • Inclusion of forest biomass in microgrid tariffs
  • Allocating 20% of electricity and gas R&D funding (EPIC and PIER) to forest biomass, including biomass to hydrogen projects
  • Adopting pipeline standards for biomass and hydrogen
  • Incentivizing both electricity and pipeline interconnection for forest biomass projects
  • Incentivizing use of forest biomass under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard
  • Increasing BioMAT category 3 (forest waste) to 250 MW and allowing Community Choice Aggregators (CCA’s) and publicly owned utilities to participate in the program
  • Requiring a portion of new RPS power to be baseload and flexible generation

Read:  Joint Institute Wood and Biomass Utilization Recommendations

CPUC Extends BioMAT Program, Adopts Important Changes

The CPUC voted 5-0 to extend the BioMAT program and make several critical changes to the program.  The CPUC’s Decision extends the program end date to the end of 2025.  This is critical since the utilities have only procured about 20 percent of the 250 megawatts required by the program.  The CPUC Decision also increases delivery flexibility for project developers, establishes deadlines for utilities to review project eligibility and approve contracts, and establishes a non-bypassable charge so that all rate-payers will share the costs of the program.  The CPUC proposed the non-bypassable charge in recognition of the fact that BioMAT projects provide important statewide benefits that all ratepayers should help to pay for, not just the purchasing utility’s customers.

See CPUC’s Proposed Decision on BioMAT (July 24, 2020), which was adopted by the Commission on August 28.

CPUC Votes to Re-Authorize EPIC Program

The CPUC voted unanimously to re-authorize the Electricity Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program for another ten years.  EPIC has provided about $165 million per year for the past decade to a variety of clean energy research, development, deployment, and market facilitation projects.  Many small-scale bioenergy projects have received EPIC funding to demonstrate new technologies, better quantify greenhouse gas reductions and other environmental benefits, improve pollution controls, and more.  In the past, the California Energy Commission has administered 80% of the EPIC funds and the utilities have administered the other 20%.  The CPUC’s Proposed Decision only re-authorizes the 80% of funding administered by the Energy Commission.  It will consider what the major funding categories should be and whether to re-authorize the utilties’ portion of funding in the next phase of the proceeding.

See CPUC’s Proposed Decision on EPIC Reauthorization, which was adopted on August 28.