• ECHO Action Editor

Liberty Utilities calls Bethlehem landfill methane gas "renewable", but details are unclear

What is Liberty's Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) project?

What Liberty Utilities is calling "renewable natural gas" is methane produced by landfills. In that this methane is not extracted through the fracking process, using this gas, that would normally be directly released into the atmosphere, is a positive energy choice.

Since Liberty Utilities will not disclose who the customer is that they have lined up for this fuel, if there is indeed one, we cannot respond to whether this effort is an overall positive decision.

If a current Liberty customer will receive this gas in place of methane piped in from Marcellus Shale or other fracked gas extraction site, then this is indeed a positive decision.

If the customer is a new customer, this is less likely to a positive move. Liberty Utilities has not disclosed the amount of gas available at the Bethlehem site or how long it is anticipated to last for. A new customer would be prepared as a gas customer and upon the exhaustion of the landfill methane, this customer would then continue to be a Liberty Utilities fracked gas, fossil fuel customer.

- Stephanie Scherr

"The total annual volume moved by Liberty is about 20 million DTH/year. The Bethlehem facility can supply about 1/2 million DTH/year or 2.5% of that total annual volume. In 2017, Liberty had Lost and Unaccounted for gas of 2.2% or 356,281 DTH, for which Liberty ratepayers reimbursed the company. Maybe fixing the leaks should have equal priority if Liberty wants to be environmentally responsible and help customers reduce costs? Also, please note that they will be trucking this gas from Bethlehem.

What happens when the landfill runs out of methane in 10 years as has happened in Keene? I applaud this effort if it will be used by an existing CNG customer to replace their fracked supply, but I don't think it should be proposed as a solution to new customers."

- Pat Martin

Liberty Utilities proposes renewable gas project at Bethlehem landfill

Liberty Utilities announced Thursday it is proposing a new renewable natural gas production facility at the Bethlehem landfill that it says will lower gas bills for New Hampshire customers starting next summer.

“We intend for this project to be the first of many in New Hampshire, and Liberty Utilities plans to be at the center of this growing local clean energy industry,” said Susan Fleck, president of Liberty Utilities' New Hampshire operations.

“Our team is currently working with communities across New Hampshire on similar projects, and we hope to announce more New Hampshire RNG projects in the future,” Fleck said.

Liberty Utilities plans to use the new gas supply from Bethlehem to serve customers in Keene, who currently get propane trucked in, as well as customers in the other 31 communities Liberty serves in central and southern New Hampshire.

“We know reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change is important to many Granite Staters,” Fleck said. “It's important to us, too.”

The project is expected to provide about 475,000 dekatherms of renewable natural gas annually in the first 10 years of operation, all to be used by New Hampshire customers.

A typical New Hampshire home uses about 78 dekatherms of natural gas per year.

Liberty's existing customers would start receiving the renewable natural gas starting in the summer of 2019 if the state Public Utilities Commission approves the project.

The project's cost and expected monthly savings on customer bills weren't immediately available.

The gas from this project is comparable in cost to conventional natural gas, but Liberty Utilities said the state's thermal renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to buy a certain percentage of renewable energy credits, would help lower costs, so customers would pay less for the renewable natural gas than for conventional natural gas on a yearly basis based on recent pricing.

Liberty spokeswoman Emily Burnett said with the Bethlehem project, “We're going to capture all the methane that is being released from the decomposing material (at the landfill),” Burnett said.

The project will process the captured gas so that it will match the chemical composition of conventional natural gas. Liberty Utilities will then provide the gas to more than 92,000 homes and businesses it serves in New Hampshire.

“This project will reduce air emissions, develop a local renewable resource, lower fuel costs for our customers and create jobs and economic development in the North Country,” Fleck said.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas praised the utility's efforts.

“By moving forward with RNG, Liberty Utilities is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and to the environment,” David Cox, the group's director of operations and general counsel, said in Liberty's statement.

“RNG helps address society's waste and resource management problems by harnessing the energy of gas that would otherwise vent to the atmosphere or be flared without purpose.”

Liberty Utilities provides services to 92,000 natural gas and 44,000 electric distribution customers in New Hampshire."


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