By Laura Stovel
With FortisBC applying to the BC Utilities Commission to bring natural gas to Revelstoke to replace propane, an opportunity is created for renewed discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels in Revelstoke.
While natural gas will be cheaper than propane, at least in the short run, and proponents claim that it is a cleaner-burning fuel at the combustion end, this shift does not help us move away from fossil fuels and a serious reduction in greenhouse gases.
The first article in this three-part series looked at the Fortis plan to truck liquefied natural gas to Revelstoke and help customers with the conversion of appliances. The second article looked at environmental concerns, including the disincentive to conserve energy with lower prices, the difficulty that renewable energy initiatives will have competing with cheap natural gas, and concerns about upstream emissions and environmental damage that are not being acknowledged in claims about natural gas being ‘cleaner’ energy.
This article looks at a FortisBC initiative that might shift energy consumption away from fossil fuels.
Renewable energy through FortisBC
FortisBC has a renewable energy program that allows customers to buy renewable natural gas at a premium rate. Renewable natural gas comes from biogas that is captured from the decomposition of waste. Many of FortisBC’s renewable natural gas projects capture methane from landfills, but waste-water treatment plants and agricultural waste can also generate useable natural gas.
According to the FortisBC website, by “capturing methane that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere,” renewable natural gas is “considered carbon neutral and reduces equivalent carbon dioxide emissions by up to 21 times.”
Using renewable natural gas does not come cheap. According to the FortisBC website, renewable natural gas would cost the average home owner (who consumes 90 GJ annually) an additional cost that would range from $3.91 (for 5% renewable natural gas) to $78.26 (for 100% renewable gas) a month. Additional costs for small businesses would range from $13.04 (5% renewable) to $260.85 a month.
You can calculate your additional costs by using the FortisBC online calculator for renewable natural gas.
Of course that doesn’t mean that the gas you actually burn is renewable. FortisBC blends the renewable natural gas that it buys into the system close to the plant where it is produced. For example the CSRD (Columbia Shuswap Regional District) has an RNG facility in Salmon Arm. “The gas is transferred to pipes, right there,” Weston explained.
At this point, the amount of renewable natural gas that FortisBC buys is only limited by what is produced. FortisBC buys all the RNG that is available and “we’re very interested in acquiring more,” Weston said.
Revelstoke could participate in FortisBC’s renewable natural gas program by developing its own biogas plant, said Joe English, Fortis project manager for Revelstoke. The gas would not be liquefied but it would have to be piped to the existing network of pipes in town.
If we did generate our own renewable natural gas, however, Revelstoke customers would not see a reduction in costs. Just as we benefit from a postage stamp rate for gas, in which the cost of trucking LNG to Revelstoke is absorbed by customers across BC, Revelstoke would pay the same rate as all BC customers for renewable natural gas if we developed a plant here.
This concludes Laura Stovel’s series on energy.
Please click here to read the first article in this series.
Please click here to read the second article in this series.