Renewable Natural Gas

Another Clean Energy Choice in the Pipeline: Renewable Natural Gas

Most of us are familiar with renewable energy that comes from the sun and wind, but did you know that renewable natural gas is another solution for those who want to increase their use of clean energy and reduce their carbon footprint?

By capturing the methane from waste and agriculture, which would have otherwise been released into the air, upgrading it and then using it to help power our lives, we can help further cut carbon emissions. This gas, called renewable natural gas, can be used to fuel vehicles, generate electricity, heat our homes and cook our food.

We think renewable natural gas is an innovative solution to help California meet its ambitious climate action goals. That’s why we’ve partnered with our sister utility, SoCalGas, to ask the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to approve a program that gives our customers the option to subscribe to a renewable natural gas program.

“We’re excited to offer our customers the choice to buy natural gas that is renewable,” said Estela de Llanos, vice president, operations support and sustainability and chief environmental officer for SDG&E.  

“Today, just as many Californians have the option to purchase renewable electricity, we are able to offer natural gas that is produced from organic waste,” she said. “Using renewable natural gas in homes and businesses can become a cost-effective way to achieve carbon-neutral homes and commercial buildings— without the expense and burden of switching appliances and equipment.” 

About the Program

If approved by the CPUC, the voluntary renewable natural gas program will be available to approximately 24 million SDG&E and SoCalGas residential and commercial and industrial customers who choose to participate.

Customers who opt to participate in the program would be able to select a specified dollar amount, or percentage of their bill, to purchase a portion of their gas from renewable sources. SDG&E and SoCalGas will then buy the renewable gas from producers and deliver it using our existing pipeline system.

As more customers participate, the amount of renewable natural gas entering the system will increase, taking more carbon emissions out of the air.

We hope to have the program up and running by 2020.

What is renewable natural gas?

Renewable natural gas comes from the decomposition of organic matter in landfills, wastewater treatment plants and farms. Depending on its source, renewable natural gas can be low-carbon, or in some cases, even carbon-negative.

Renewable natural gas is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas, both of which consist largely of methane. That means once it has been cleaned up, renewable natural gas can be injected into our existing natural gas system.

Renewable natural gas is already being used to reduce pollution in transportation, which accounts for 41 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions statewide and about 50 percent in the San Diego region. It’s also being collected from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and used to power a 2.8-megawatt fuel cell at UC San Diego.

California has the potential to produce more than 90 billion cubic feet of renewable natural gas per year from waste sources, enough to meet the natural gas needs of around 2.3 million California homes. Using a renewable resource that would have otherwise been wasted is a cost-effective way to achieving a cleaner California now.