The Forgotten Renewable: Biogas
China's status as number one emitter of CO2 is fairly common knowledge, but less heralded in the newspapers or global climate talks is that China's anthropogenic methane emissions are also first in the world. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A large percentage of China's anthropogenic methane emissions come from agriculture (manure management); coal mines; landfills; and natural gas and oil systems.
China has long used organic wastes for biogas production in the agricultural and small community sector, but the National Development and Reform Commission's 2007 renewable energy plan set forth targets to supply at least 3-gigawatts of grid-connected electricity from middle- and large-scale biogas plants. NDRC aims to replace 1 billion tons of coal with biomass-based energy by 2050. Unlike intermittent wind and solar power, biogas is a renewable gas that is provides a base load energy supply. However, biogas faces challenges similar to other renewable projects in China in that utility power companies are not required to purchase their energy, which is more expensive then coal.
At this May 24th CEF meeting, speakers will talk about the current scale and potential of biogas and the obstacles to rapid expansion. The opening speaker will be Lu Hongyan—known by many in the CEF network for her role in founding GreenSOS, an environmental NGO network bringing community groups and young environmentalists together in China. At this talk she will discuss her work on developing industrialized biogas projects in China and promoting sustainable agriculture projects in Chengdu that focus on household biogas, organic food production, and ecological wastewater treatment facilities. Rachel Goldstein—Team Leader of the EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program—will discuss EPA's work as part of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), which is an international partnership comprising 38 countries and the European Commission to promote cost-effective, near-term methane recovery and use as a clean energy source. EPA, through GMI, has assessed more than 10 landfills in China and if projects are established at these sites, their estimated potential emission reductions are at least 500,000 mtCO2e. The talk will conclude with some comments from EPA's Brenda Doroski who is involved in the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air—a global network of 467 organizations that are contributing their resources and expertise to reduce smoke exposure from cooking and heating practices in households around the world. She will talk about EPA's work on clean indoor air and the crucial role household biogas could play in solving serious rural health problems.