Bioenergy Australia says ACT Govt full of hot air

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The ACT Government recently announced the next phase of its strategy towards zero net emissions, saying it will look to phase out the use of gas, electrify all new government-owned buildings and support the further adoption of emissions-free transport options.

In the ACT’s climate change strategy, it voiced concerns over the viability of biogas, stating, “Biogas, gas from fermentation of organic material, could be useful at the small scale, but is not seen as a viable replacement for natural gas at this stage due to uncertainty around availability of a sufficient quantity of suitable material from which to generate the gas and the likely high cost”.

Bioenergy Australia has strongly disputed this statement, saying biogas is currently the cheapest option for decarbonisation of energy currently provided by gas networks.

The recently launched report “Biogas opportunities for Australia”, prepared by ENEA consulting for Bioenergy Australia, ARENA, the International Energy Agency, CEFC and Energy Networks, estimated biogas potential in Australia is 103 TWh (371 PJ)2 Bib.3, which is comparable with current biogas production in Germany.

Australia’s biogas potential is equivalent to almost nine per cent of Australia’s total energy consumption of 4247 PJ in 2016-2017 Bib.1. Considering the current average size of biogas units in Australia, this could represent up to 90,000 biogas units. Moreover, the investment opportunity for new bioenergy and energy from waste projects is estimated at $A3.5 to 5 billion, with the potential to avoid up to nine million tonnes of CO2e emissions each year.

Related article: Five minutes with Bioenergy Australia Chair Dr John Hewson

Current policies such as the Renewable Energy Target (RET) favour the use of biogas for electricity generation rather than injection into the gas network, however enough biogas potential exists to meet all residential and commercial gas demand on the East Coast. The cheapest form of biogas feedstock (urban waste, livestock residue and food waste) is currently sufficient to meet around 14 per cent of energy used from gas.

In addition, there are opportunities to look to invest in the decarbonisation of this sector. For example AGIG have recently undertaken a study with Deloitte on Decarbonising Victoria’s Gas consumption and it was found that using renewable gas to decarbonise natural gas consumption in Victoria is 40 per cent less expensive than full electrification.

Bioenergy Australia CEO Shahana Mckenzie says, “If significant reports from reputable organisations explicitly call out that the biogas potential exists to meet demand in Australia, and that decarbonising natural gas consumption is less expensive that full electrification, we hope the ACT Government will reconsider their position”.

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“Renewable gas is a solution to many of our current challenges such as waste reduction, production of bio-fertiliser, generation of a renewable energy, emission reduction, improved water quality and economic development to name a few,” she said.

Mckenzie urges the ACT Government to consider reviewing what other countries are doing around the world.  For instance, Copenhagen aims to become the world’s first CO2-neutral capital by 2025 through Green Gas (Biogas).