Why Europe should step up its efforts to promote biomethane
Edouard Sauvage, CEO of French gas distributor GRDF, believes tougher targets and more attention to promote biomethane would reap benefits for Europe. Sauvage will be speaking at European Utility Week on Tuesday 6 November 2018, in the session Natural and renewable gas: Key enablers of decarbonisation and digitisation of EU energy system.
One of the main challenges for GRDF is to be a major player in energy transition. Energy transition represents an opportunity to put gas energy and its new usages on tomorrow’s energy map. Anaerobic digestion is a circular economy solution to produce renewable gas (known as biogas) and achieve decarbonisation.
One way that GRDF can help achieve decarbonisation is by using anaerobic digestion to produce renewable gas (known as biogas or green gas), from agricultural residues, livestock manure and fermentable waste. After purification, biogas reaches the quality of natural gas and can be injected into the grid: they call this gas biomethane. It can be used for heating and as a fuel (known as BioCNG). BioCNG offers an economic and ecological solution for transporting goods and people.
GRDF believes green gas represents the future of gas because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps to achieve the carbon neutrality goal. Biomethane contributes to increasing the share of renewables in energy consumption and transport sectors.
“GRDF believes gas can be part of the energy transition success story. We hope future legislators will give more importance to biomethane and its potential for decarbonisation”
Moreover, while aiming at fixing circular economy in rural territories, methanisation also supports sustainable farming from both an environmental and economic perspective, by creating new and non- relocatable jobs. In France, we estimate that 50,000 farmers could be working in methanisation by 2030.
Biomethane production sites are increasingly numerous: there are 56 sites in France, and as of June 2018, 49 inject directly into the GRDF grid. They offer a virtuous solution for waste disposal in food industry and agricultural sectors. Biogas production also generates a by-product called digestate. This natural and organic material can be spread on farmland as a substitute for mineral fertilisers of fossil origin. Producing biomethane is also a response to the increasing willingness of the EU to become energy self-sufficient and to reduce energy imports.
As a gas distribution system operator, GRDF is committed to promoting biomethane injection into the grid and to bring together the various actors of the sector.
GRDF wants to underline that in addition to the many positive externalities already mentioned, the development of renewable gas does not require massive investments in network infrastructures, but a series of targeted and technical adaptations answering a decentralised (reverse flow and meshing) and digital management. GRDF is a key leader of digitalisation, and is currently rolling out a smart metering system to their 11 million customers.
The way we see it at to GRDF, although the biomethane industry is quite young, a set of factors are already making it competitive. In the next years, the price of fossil fuels will sharply increase, especially as the price of energy tends to depend more and more on climate externalities. Decarbonisation is therefore a real societal choice, and renewable gas an opportunity.
The dynamism of the sector and the potential for development of anaerobic digestion in France reinforces GRDF's ambition to inject, by 2030, 30% of renewable gas into the distribution network. Recently, the French environment and energy management agency published a study entitled “A 100% renewable gas mix in 2050?”. This study considers clear and concrete perspectives that could allow France achieve the goal of 100% renewable gas in the grid by 2050.
GRDF believes gas has a role to play in the energy mix and can be part of the energy transition success story. We hope future European and French legislators will give more importance to biomethane and its great potential for decarbonisation. Setting a target of 50 TWh of injection in 2028 (at the French level) would be a decisive political signal for the development of this exemplary sector of the circular economy.
GRDF is a French company with a public service mission: distributing natural gas and renewable gas to citizens. Our vision and values: Professionalism, Commitment, Openness and Responsibility are our guarantee that this mission is properly fulfilled on a daily basis. GRDF is the biggest distribution system operator in Europe with 200,000 km of network and 11 million customers.
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