1. What is biomethane?
Biomethane, also known as renewable natural gas (RNG), is biogas that has been purified or upgraded to be molecularly indistinguishable from fossil natural gas. Biogas is made from the decomposition of organic material. This organic material can be any biological material (firewood, etc.), but there is an added benefit to producing biogas from waste organic material, i.e. food and yard waste, livestock manure, wastewater treatment plants, and landfill gas. When these waste materials decompose naturally, they produce biogas, releasing methane and carbon dioxide—the two most prevalent greenhouse gasses—into the atmosphere. Alternatively, these waste materials can be captured and processed by anaerobic digestion, where microorganisms break down the organic matter to create methane-rich biogas. The biogas is then cleaned and upgraded until it is interchangeable with fossil gas. This process not only captures the methane and carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, but the resulting gas may then be used as a reliable source of energy in place of fossil natural gas, and offers customers an important renewable option to use gas with lower lifecycle emissions.
2. Why Is a Standard Needed?
Biomethane is increasingly becoming a solution for commercial and residential customers who want an effective way to use fuels from renewable sources, and offers a pathway to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. However, buyers and sellers currently contract for energy with little to no oversight of the associated environmental attributes. There are no standards or rules in place to ensure voluntary purchasers are making high-quality, verified purchases of renewable fuels outside the transportation market that include the environmental benefits.
Green-e® Renewable Fuels’ consumer protection and product disclosure rules, in addition to its environmental criteria, will help consumers understand their options and make informed choices, increasing trust and stability in the renewable energy market, leading to more ongoing market demand assurances for projects and more investor confidence.
3. Why CRS?
Center for Resource Solutions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to advancing sustainable energy through policy and market solutions. It was founded in 1997 to grow the then-nascent renewable energy market by providing expert assistance and promoting renewable energy through policy development, education, and building markets. We work to develop standards and verification methodologies for environmental commodities that are crucial to the growth of retail markets for environmentally preferable products.
Over the years, the organization has grown in both its domestic and international scope, and today is the leading independent certifier of renewable electricity products in North America. It supports implementation and advancement of renewable energy policy and markets, convenes thought leaders, and promotes increasing renewable energy development and use. CRS, with oversight by the independent Green-e® Governance Board, maintains the stakeholder-driven standard-development and -update process. Through the Green-e® certification programs, CRS provides consumer protection and independent, third-party verification for transactions in the voluntary renewable energy market.
Along with industry-leading certification programs for buyers and sellers of renewable energy and strong policy and educational programs, CRS also works with local, state, and national governments, other NGOs, national labs and think tanks, and industry stakeholders to provide guidance and leadership to all sectors of the energy industry interested in growing the renewables marketplace.
4. What Were the Roles of the Advisory Group and Working Group?
CRS convened a Working Group and an Advisory Group to provide environmental, technical, and market input during development of the new Standard.
The Advisory Group was comprised of environmental nonprofit organizations, Green-e® Governance Board members, academic experts, and industry stakeholders that advised us in the development of best practices throughout this process.
The Working Group was made up of the funders of the standard development process, that are helping to advance clean energy development and the availability of environmental commodities, while ensuring market integrity. Without this assistance, our work on this Standard would not have been possible.
The Working Group was comprised of:
- 3 Degrees
- Bloom Energy
- Element Markets
- First Environment
- Mas Energy
- Vermont Gas
- Waste Management
5. What Is the Purpose of the Standard?
The objective of the Standard and certification program is to accelerate the adoption of biomethane, while ensuring that the gas is from sustainable renewable resources, meets the highest environmental standards, and that customers are protected in their purchase and ability to make verifiable usage claims.
The ultimate goal is to develop and standardize best practices in the biomethane market, provide market demand for environmentally preferable sources, and to make the voluntary market for biomethane purchasing more trustworthy and stable for future development of biomethane resources in place of fossil resources.
6. Who Is the Standard For?
The Standard addresses the production, sale, and use of renewable fuels in the voluntary market. It is available to buyers or sellers of renewable fuels products, including large consumers purchasing renewable fuels products directly from a producer. Sellers can use the Standard to guide the creation of renewable fuels and thermal product offerings and to support marketing claims related to biomethane use.
7. How Was the Standard Development Process Conducted?
Green-e® Energy’s general standard-setting process is available online at www.green-e.org/about/standard-setting. Development of the Green-e® Renewable Fuels Standard followed this process.
8. What Did the Standard Development Process Entail?
1. Drafting a new industry standard for biogas transactions. CRS created the first draft standard in consultation with the advisory committees. This standard defined the environmental and consumer protection requirements needed to verify the delivery and sale of renewable fuels through CRS’s Green-e® certification.
2. Conducting a series of public stakeholder comment periods. CRS released the initial draft for a 60-day public comment period to various public stakeholders for their review and further circulation. All interested stakeholders were welcome to comment. CRS collected all comments and presented standard revisions for review by the Green-e Governance Board. The advisory committees, and/or other industry experts were also consulted depending on the types of issues raised during the public consultation. This process was repeated two more times, with a second 60-day comment period and a final 30-day comment period.
3. Consulting with the Green-e Governance Board to finalize and adopt the standard. Green-e® program rules require that any new standard be approved by the independent Green-e® Governance Board. The Board reviewed and discussed the new standard that resulted from the three comment periods before voting to approve the final version, which is now publicly available.
The Standard will also be updated as needed along with development in the market and in relevant policies. Participants will be notified of all changes per Section XI of the Standard. Also, the Standard will be periodically reviewed and stakeholders will be consulted as part of that process.
9. What Types of Renewable Fuels are Eligible Under the Standard?
At this point, the Standard allows certification of fuels products comprised of biomethane that is derived from landfill gas or the anaerobic digestion of certain organic waste material. In the future CRS will consider expansion of the program to address other renewable fuels and renewable thermal energy products, such as solar thermal, geothermal, and green hydrogen.
10. What Types of Feedstocks and Project Types are Eligible for Biomethane Production?
Biomethane may come from landfill gas or from anaerobic digestion of the following feedstocks:
- Municipal, industrial, and commercial wastewater
- The organic component of municipal solid waste when separated out prior to landfilling
- Food waste (e.g. collected at municipal composting facilities) and food and beverage processing waste
- Certain vegetative matter, removed near homes and other structures
- Certain crop residue, such as what is not merchantable as human food or animal feed
- Animal waste, including manure and feathers from farms that are not Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). It is possible that a set of stringent CAFO requirements will be developed in the future, which would allow waste from certain CAFOs to be digested into eligible biomethane, but animal waste from CAFOs is currently not eligible under this Standard.
11. What Is the Justification for Promoting Biomethane Use?
Current scientific and policy approaches agree the best path forward to achieve long-term global climate goals and energy-related emissions reductions is through deep electrification powered by renewable energy. However, the ease and duration of the transition to a decarbonized energy economy will differ for every country based on various economic, political, and systemic barriers. The U.S., for example, has built its economy around access to abundant and inexpensive energy sources that serve hundreds of millions of people. The natural gas industry, which accounts for the largest share of U.S. energy production, is deeply intertwined in the U.S. economic system—billions of dollars are invested annually on natural gas infrastructure, including more than 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines that serve 75 million customers. Biomethane is a renewable substitute for fossil natural gas that can use that same infrastructure while adding ancillary benefits, such as capturing fugitive emissions from waste and diverting organic material from landfills.
The goal of this Standard is to accelerate the substitution of renewable fuels for fossil fuels to expedite the transition to sustainable energy. Use of biomethane can be complementary to electrification as a climate strategy, and offers a near-term interim solution for consumers to use fuels with lower lifecycle emissions.
12. Where Can I Learn More?
Please visit our Green-e® Renewable Fuels website and sign up for email notifications to stay up to date on any program milestones. If you have any questions, you can email email@example.com or contact:
Director, Technical Projects