Many homes in Southeast PA are heated with natural gas. Often that gas comes from fracking operations that increasingly have come under attack for polluting waterways, damaging air quality, and emitting greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. Luckily, deregulation has provided options when it comes to choosing who supplies the natural gas that runs through the utility pipelines. Customers now have more freedom to find products, service and pricing they like. Renewable natural gas can and should be a game changer in that arena.
The owners of Exact Solar, Mark and Dara Bortman, are proactive about reducing their carbon footprint. They recently replaced their gas furnace with a new high efficiency heat pump unit (run on electricity generated by their solar panels) that only uses gas as a backup in very cold temperatures. Knowing they still were using natural gas for cooking and some heating, they then searched for ways to move to a more sustainable option. They found The Energy Co-op which supplies Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) to those who join as members. For anyone currently serviced by PECO or PGW, this is a terrific option for heating and cooking with a big environmental upside.
Renewable Natural Gas in Use
Like solar power, renewable natural gas is an environmentally improved source of energy replacing fossil fuels and reducing the need to mine from the earth. Both are transparent to the user, providing equal quality electricity or fuel for heating. Neither require changes in your home or appliances.
RNG is a biogas that has been engineered and developed to perform as well as traditional natural gas for home use. Being a biogas means it is derived from organic materials. In the case of RNG, a large source is produced from landfills, where decomposing waste naturally produces the required base gas – methane. Agriculture operations also produce waste that is increasingly used. Further processing makes this RNG pipeline-ready and an equivalent for traditionally mined natural gas.
Renewable Natural Gas Benefits
The relatively short history but fast-growing use are proving that at its full potential, RNG could well be the most reliable and the most cost-effective renewable energy source. With increasing demand comes increasing production, motivating further product development and access. Even so, proven benefits include the following:
Reducing greenhouse gases (GHG): RNG represents the recycling of carbon that is already circulating in the environment, whereas burning a fossil fuel represents the release of new carbon emissions that were previously sequestered in the earth. That is because, when captured for conversion into RNG, methane from animal waste and other biomass sources that otherwise would have entered directly into Earth’s atmosphere is instead combusted as RNG. GHG released from using RNG for home heating and cooking are less potent. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane that leaks or seeps is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Keeping production domestic and local: There is a large supply of civil and agricultural waste materials available in every community.
Keeping revenues and business local: The net effect of having a local or regional RNG supply is keeping the economic activity mostly local, benefiting communities along the way. Whether derived from landfills or agricultural operations, local demand and local production can be matched in some locations.
The Energy Co-op
Started in 1979 by members of the Weavers Way food co-op, the Energy Co-op has existed for decades. Originally, they supplied the Philadelphia region with renewable electricity for years. In 2010, they began providing renewable natural gas to PECO customers living outside the city. After another pilot expansion last year, it decided to make the jump to offer its biogas to all PGW customers across the city.
As a membership-based nonprofit, The Energy Co-op enables participants to buy energy responsibly and affordably and provides related information and education. Buying RNG through the organization is easy and does not require a long-term contract.
- They work directly with PECO and PGW to transport your RNG supply directly to you.
- There are no service interruptions. No home visits. It’s all in the pipes.
- Currently, there is a very modest premium for sustainably heating your home, less than $1 a day in the peak winter period. Less throughout the year.
- Depending on location, it may take between 1 to 2 billing cycles for the switch to occur.
Mark and Dara want to encourage everyone in the area to consider RNG and join them is sustainably heating their homes. There is still time to make the switch for the upcoming peak heating season.