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2016 Renewable Gas Panorama

Renewable gas sustainably merged into the French energy landscape

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2016 confirmed the emergence of the biomethane sector, particularly with 9 new sites opening in France. With an annual increase of 162% in 2016, 215 GWh were injected into the gas grid, equivalent to the consumption of nearly 18,000 homes or 1,000 buses. 
The 2016 Renewable Gas Panorama is the result of collaboration between GRDF, GRTgaz, the French Renewable Energies Union (Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables - SER), SPEGNN and TIGF; its aim is to assess the status of the sector and outline its future outlook.

Significant potential
At the end of 2016, 26 sites injecting biomethane into all grids and 241 projects listed at an advanced stage confirm the trend observed in 2015.  Nonetheless, renewable gas production only represents 0.05% of French consumption, although the French Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth (Énergétique pour la Croissance Verte - LTECV) sets a target of 10% renewable gas consumption by 2030. 

Regulatory changes needed 
2016 was marked by the implementation of a French government order making it possible to issue calls for tenders to supplement current support mechanisms, in order to achieve the objectives. If all those involved in the sector welcome this major step forward, it will not by itself be enough. To reach the aims set by the LTECV, several organisational measures are required: adjusting the S coefficient for sites never having valued biogas as a purchase contract*, extending the purchase contract from 15 to 20 years at the same price, and switching from monthly calculation of injection capacities to an annual calculation. 

Key figures in 2016:

  • 26 injection (+ 53% compared to 2015)
  • 215 GWh energy injected in natural gas grids (+ 162% compared to 2015)
  • 410 GWh/year maximum installed biomethane production capacity (+ 47% compared to 2015)
  • 241 injection projects listed in the queue* representing maximum cumulative capacity of 5,000 GWh/year
  • 40,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas avoided by using biomethane
  • 2,000 to 3,000 direct non-relocatable jobs by 2020

*A project is added to the connection queue when it reaches the order of the phase II study: feasibility or detailed study.

Renewable gas: a solution to reduce greenhouse bases  
Reducing CO2 emissions at all steps in the process, in 2016 the renewable gas injection sector avoided discharging 40,400 tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. For comparison, 15,000 tonnes of emissions were avoided in 2015. Based on currently-identified projects, the potential for biomethane injection by 2020 is about 3,000 GWh/year, which will save 560,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas. This is equivalent to the consumption by nearly 250,000 homes or 13,000 buses.

A job-creating sector  
Players in the renewable gas sector are continuing to raise their skills and could create 2,000 to 3,000 direct and non-relocatable jobs by 2020. The whole biogas sector, including injection and distribution of biomethane fuel, should enable more than 10,000 jobs to be created in development/construction and nearly 5,000 jobs in operation/maintenance.

New renewable gas production sectors 
In the medium and long term, we will also have to count on new technological building blocks for renewable gas production, such as dry biomass gasification and Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), Power-to-Gas (hydrogen production by electrolysis of water using renewable electrical energy sources) and recycling microalgae. A few demonstration projects have already been implemented and by 2035 these production channels could inject 15,000 to 40,000 GWh/year and 160,000 to 280,000 GWh/year, for Power-to-Gas and gasification, respectively. 

Very positive feedback:

  • From the first weeks, injection sites are achieving 80% of maximum production capacity, to reach 100% rapidly.
  • The effective availability levels, close to 97%, are higher than the contractual commitments of 95% taken by operators.
  • The quality of gas measured on each site meets the required standards and, in general, production is controlled and meets objectives.

« The French Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth [Loi de Transition Énergétique pour la Croissance Verte] sets a target of 10% renewable gas consumption by 2030. France made the choice to direct the sector towards a circular economic model, making it possible to recycle waste, produce renewable gas and develop new uses such as Vehicle Natural BioGas, also called biomethane fuel. In a single year, the renewable gas production injected into the network nearly tripled and a great many projects are in progress. Nonetheless, to meet the 2030 target, businesses are still waiting for support mechanisms appropriate to the specific nature of this energy source », states Jean-Louis Bal, SER Chairman.

Today, site already producing biogas and wishing to choose biomethane have a rebate coefficient applied to their future purchase price although they have still never received support.