April 2019 Newsletter
What's New With RNG?
Last September, the Oregon Department of Energy published a “Biogas and Renewable Natural Gas Inventory” for the state. The report was made possible by months of stakeholder meetings, discussions, and research. Among other conclusions, the inventory found that low-carbon renewable natural gas could replace up to 20 percent of the state’s annual natural gas usage.
With this kind of potential, it’s probably no surprise that RNG continues to be a hot topic across Oregon. For example, over the past couple months, the Oregon Legislature has considered different policies related to RNG, and the report and the many knowledgeable people who worked on it have been helpful resources.
Meanwhile, others are working on advancing renewable natural gas production in communities across the state. Dan Avery, ODOE senior policy analyst and the inventory’s primary author, notes that there are five RNG projects underway in Oregon, where diverse waste-streams such as landfill trash, wastewater, and dairy manure will be tapped to turn biogas into RNG.
This doesn’t mean Oregon’s RNG production is going to change overnight. As Dan points out, it takes time to build the infrastructure to convert biogas to RNG. For existing facilities, adding and adjusting digesters and gas cleanup equipment is expensive. Location also matters – it’s easier when gas projects are located near interstate pipelines.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about RNG’s growth in Oregon. Dan reports that transportation fleets are more interested than ever in RNG as a way to reduce emissions, especially from high-volume diesel fleets, such as transit authorities and waste haulers. Commercial and industrial users have also shown interest. Just as companies and individuals will pay a premium for electricity from renewable wind or solar power, manufacturers are curious about adding RNG to their mix to show their commitment to sustainability.
The Oregon Department of Energy will continue seeking out opportunities for RNG to grow in the state. Our agency recently applied to the U.S. Department of Energy for grant funds that would help us take the next step toward understanding economic drivers for renewable natural gas development. And ODOE is part of the West Coast Collaborative, a public-private partnership dedicated to reducing diesel emissions, and its effort to secure infrastructure grants to support RNG fueling facilities.
Dan is also tracking how the industry is changing across the Pacific Northwest. He cites the City of Portland’s project at its Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, which we covered in our Grounded podcast. And he recently visited the Klickitat County PUD waste-to-energy facility near Roosevelt, Washington. The associated Roosevelt Landfill is the largest landfill in Washington. Processes to convert landfill gas to electricity were recently updated; today, that landfill gas is cleaned up to pipeline standards and being sold as transportation fuel in California.
“Things are moving forward nicely,” Dan says. “These different projects will collectively have a positive effect on the region’s carbon emissions.”
OODE Earns USDOE "Innovation Award"
The Oregon Department of Energy’s Statewide Home Energy Score program earned a 2019 “Innovation Award” from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Building Division earlier this month. The Innovation Award recognizes agencies or organizations that implement creative strategies that support home energy scoring programs. We earned the award for launching “a replicable, statewide Home Energy Score program that coordinates local and regional programs, minimizes program management burdens, and streamlines Home Energy Score implementation throughout the state.”
Read more on our blog.
New Electric Bus Takes to the Road
On April 16, a new electric bus took to Beaverton streets. TriMet unveiled the new e-bus alongside representatives from Portland General Electric, which provides the renewable wind power that will fuel the buses at transit center charging stations. TriMet will put another four buses into service later this year; the regional transit agency reports the buses can go about 80 miles a charge.
The launch of the new e-bus builds on a commitment, announced last year, for Trimet to have a non-diesel bus fleet by or before 2040. TriMet estimates that each new e-bus added to its fleet will reduce carbon emissions by about a million pounds each year. The buses also save in fuel costs since electricity is cheaper per mile and less volatile than traditional transportation fuels.
Other communities in Oregon are incorporating electric buses into their fleets, including Eugene and Medford/Ashland. The state of Oregon offers help to fleet managers looking to go electric. Learn more about our Zero Emission Vehicle Interagency Working Group on the ODOE website.
More Like Earth Month
ODOE staffers have been out and about in April talking about energy, climate, and more. We took part in the Oregon Garden's annual Earth Day event, where we discussed electricity, our new Solar Dashboard, and Oregon's diverse energy resources. This last item was helped along by our new coloring book, available in both English and Spanish, that shows different types of renewable energy across the state. Remember: you can download a copy on our website and share.
We were also out at Chemeketa Community College and the University of Oregon, where we fielded questions about careers in energy. The good news: a lot of bright students want to work in this exciting field.
Jordan Cove Energy Project Updates
The ODOE website includes a dashboard for information about the Jordan Cove Energy Project, a proposed liquefied natural gas facility in Coos Bay and associated pipeline. The dashboard is intended to provide quick updates on the project, which touches a variety of state agency processes, plus the large federal review process. On the federal side, at the end of March, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project and is accepting public comment on the DEIS until July 5, 2019.
State agency updates are also included. Earlier this month, Jordan Cove informed ODOE that due to engineering changes to on-site energy generation at the export facility, the company is no longer seeking an exemption to a site certificate (the state permit that authorizes energy generation above a certain threshold).
You can find more information about these updates and other project information on the Jordan Cove dashboard.
Reports From Around the Agency
Senate Bill 38, ODOE's thermal renewable energy certificate bill, has passed out of both the House and Senate.
Earlier this month, we held a Built Environment Efficiency Working Group meeting in Salem. The meeting was open to the public and touched on the various ways state agencies are implementing the Governor's 2017 energy efficiency Executive Order. Check in on all the milestones ODOE and other state agencies are reaching.
Come work with us! We're hiring a senior developer and a developer/analyst for our IT team.
The Oregon Department of Energy was the first state agency to earn Marion County's EarthWISE certification. Eleven years later, we're still going strong.
ICYMI: last month we launched a new Solar Dashboard that shows how renewable solar electricity has grown in Oregon over the past two decades. Check out the dashboard and share your feedback. We're still making refinements and appreciate the input!
Last week, ODOE's Jeff Burright, a nuclear waste remediation specialist at ODOE, gave a presentation on the Hanford nuclear site and efforts to clean up contamination at the facility, which sits on the Columbia River just 35 miles from the Oregon border. The venue was OMSI After Dark, a fun and interactive event geared toward the 21-and-over crowd. Jeff is a regular presenter on Hanford and Oregon's role in the cleanup, but this was the first time he started a presentation on the country's largest environmental cleanup project after 9 p.m.