Report: Australia needs renewable gas targets for biogas

bioenergy

A report for Bioenergy Australia argues federal and state governments should set renewable gas targets, similar to the renewable energy target for the electricity sector, to drive investment in cleaner fuels like biogas and hydrogen.

The report, prepared by ENEA Consulting, argues biogas has the potential to supply up to nine per cent of Australia’s energy needs and significantly reduce emissions, but requires policies to support industry development.

ENEA Consulting principal and report author Mendo Kundevski said biogas and hydrogen need to be part of Australia’s energy mix to help secure supply and reduce emissions while also creating jobs and offering new income sources.

“Currently biogas contributes to about 0.5 per cent of the national electricity generation but has the potential to supply up to nine per cent of Australia’s total energy consumption or one-third of the country’s national gas consumption,” he said.

“Biogas is a renewable, continuous and dispatchable energy source that has the potential to reduce Australia’s emissions by nine million tonnes of CO2 each year.

“It’s created from the largely oxygen-free decomposition of organic matter and as such can be created from industrial waste, agricultural waste, sludge from wastewater treatment from food waste.

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“Biogas can be upgraded into biomethane which can replace natural gas and can be used in industries and homes for cooking, heating and hot water, as well as fuel for vehicles.”

Mr Kundevski said Australia has an abundant source of biogas from waste materials but is not making the most of existing opportunities.

“Australia could develop a competitive advantage in energy supply by developing biogas in the short term and hydrogen in the medium to longer term,” he said.

“There are currently 242 biogas sites across the country, half of which are landfills. Unfortunately, in 2017 half of this landfill gas was not used as an energy source and was flared.

“In addition to energy production, the residue from the process is a nutrient-rich material that can be used in farming instead of chemical fertilisers.”

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Mr Kundevski said Australia could learn from the growth of the biogas industry overseas, particularly in leading countries like Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The development of the biogas sector overseas has been driven by different objectives, including addressing landfill issues in the United Kingdom, supporting renewable energy in California, improving residential access to energy in China, promoting alternative transport fuel in Sweden or supporting the agriculture sector in France,” he said.

“In each country the implementation of appropriate policy mechanisms has been a catalyst for the growth of their biogas industry.

“The introduction of the Renewable Energy Target in Australia helped drive investment in solar and wind technology and increased the use of renewable energy sources.

“Setting a similar type of target for renewable gases – even a non-binding target – would help kick-start projects and build momentum for biogas and hydrogen in Australia.”

Other recommendations include to:

  • Conduct a detailed consultation with industry stakeholders to understand how existing policies could be adapted and new ones could be designed to support the sector
  • Introduce waste management strategies to support feedstock quality and quantity
  • Encourage plant operators, particularly landfill operators to maximise biogas use
  • Explore use of biomethane as an alternative vehicle fuel to assist with the decarbonisation of Australia’s transport sector
  • Improve regulatory clarity for digestive material and simplify approval processes for renewable gas projects.

Click here for a full copy of the report.