Green natural gas hits marketplace

Households can now to choose buy carbon-neutral biogas at a premium through FortisBC

FortisBC customers can opt to pay a premium to get up to 10 per cent of their natural gas from renewable sources such as landfill- or sewage-derived biogas.

Just as households can opt to pay more for green electricity, FortisBC is now offering to charge its customers more to support renewable natural gas projects and cut their carbon footprint.

Those who sign on will pay about $4 extra per month to have 10 per cent of their home’s natural gas designated as from biogas sources, which avoids the extraction of fossil fuel gas.

The methane is initially being captured at a landfill in Salmon Arm and generated from cattle manure at Catalyst Power Inc.’s new anerobic digester in Abbotsford. It’s upgraded to pipeline quality before being pumped into the gas utility’s network.

More biomethane is expected to flow into the gas grid from Metro Vancouver sewage treatment plants in the future.

The offering is billed as a way to choose a greener more sustainable way to heat homes and take action on climate change.

“It’s an innovative approach that allows their customers to take action on climate change in a simple and cost-effective way,” said James Tansey, CEO of Offsetters, a carbon management firm that has endorsed the offering as carbon-neutral.

FortisBC (formerly Terasen Gas) estimates the program will save 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in the first year, equal to taking 1,000 cars off the road each year.

The program will initially run on a first-come first-served basis.

“There’s limited supply of biogas for renewable natural gas,” FortisBC spokesman Marcus Wong said, adding it could be opened up to more customers or larger proportions of biogas use as supplies increase.

There’s no locked-in contract – customers can opt out at any time at no cost.

Subscribers pay 10 per cent less in carbon tax on their gas bills, because B.C.’s carbon tax applies on natural gas but not on carbon-neutral sources.

It’s the first program of its kind in North America.

Biogas so far costs more to produce than regular natural gas.

FortisBC is expected to sign an agreement to buy biogas from Metro Vancouver’s Lulu Island sewage treatment plant at $13.40 per gigajoule – nearly triple the current market price of regular natural gas. The arrangement is subject to regulatory approval and finalization of a Metro-led project to enhance biogas generation at Lulu Island.