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Image taken from a renewable natural gas (RNG) facility in Ontario, which uses upgrading equipment to turn food waste into pipeline-quality gas.supplied

Among the many pathways to a lower-emissions future is one that starts with an unlikely material and transforms it into an energy source that’s carbon-neutral and available immediately to consumers and businesses through existing infrastructure.

Renewable natural gas (RNG) is created through a process that captures and purifies methane emissions from landfills and other sources such as farm waste and wastewater. RNG is a market-ready solution that can and should be part of a pragmatic, diversified-energy approach towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“Canadians produce millions of tons of waste each year that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions,” says Nicole Brunner, director of gas supply at Enbridge Gas, which has made significant investments in recent years to support RNG projects in Ontario. “Today, we have the technology to convert waste into a carbon-neutral and reliable source of renewable energy.”

A new RNG facility under construction near the town of Blenheim – located southwest of London, Ont. – is just one example of the many renewable energy projects in the province that Enbridge Gas is participating in. The facility, which will convert methane from decomposing organic waste into low-carbon energy, is being built on a landfill site owned by an outside company. Enbridge Gas will own and operate all the necessary infrastructure to safely and reliably inject the renewable energy into the natural gas system. The project is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2024.

Transforming waste into RNG accomplishes two critical climate change goals: diverting refuse from landfills and reducing emissions by capturing methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. For Enbridge Gas, RNG also adds one more energy solution to its energy transition strategy. This strategy focuses on providing customers the most cost-effective and resilient path to net-zero emissions, an approach that requires different energy sectors to work together.

This diversified approach was bolstered recently by an Enbridge-sponsored analysis by Guidehouse, a global consulting firm. Guidehouse looked at the feasibility of a diversified pathway – which combines electrification with low- and zero-carbon gases and natural gas paired with carbon capture – and of deep electrification, where low- and zero-carbon gases and carbon capture are used only where no reasonable alternative energy source exists.

The analysis concluded that a diversified energy approach was more cost-effective and reliable than focusing primarily on electrification. The latter approach brings many challenges, including an electricity system that lacks the capacity to meet peak power requirements, as well as the intermittent or limited availability of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

By comparison, a diversified system that leverages existing underground gas storage and transmission infrastructure – which would be shielded from the impact of extreme, inclement weather – would ensure reliable, sustainable and affordable energy for Canadians.

Enbridge Gas is Canada’s largest natural gas storage, transmission and distribution company based in Ontario. The distribution business provides safe, affordable, reliable energy to about 3.9 million customers. With a vast network of natural gas pipelines, the company recognizes the tremendous opportunity presented by RNG. For one, it is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and can simply be added to the existing natural gas system. This reduces the buildout of electricity infrastructure that will be needed to support critical emissions reduction actions, including vehicle electrification.

“Enbridge Gas has applied to the Ontario Energy Board for approval to increase the RNG blend in the natural gas we deliver to customers,” says Ms. Brunner. “If we receive approval, it will enable us to help lower the greenhouse gas emissions of our customers’ natural gas supply while continuing to make use of the appliances they already own.”

For Ontarians, this approval would mean more sustainable and reliable energy options as the province and the rest of the country continue to advance towards a net-zero future. It’s a great opportunity we can’t afford to waste.

Advertising feature produced by Enbridge. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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