INTERVIEW: Energy Transitions and the Paris Agreement: How Biogas Can Help
With environmental matters coming more sharply into focus in recent years, an increasing number of energy industry players are starting to look at existing and emerging sources of "greener" fuel.
Alice Rodrigues, Project Manager at GRTgaz, spoke to Natural Gas Europe at December's COP21 summit in Paris about why she thinks biogas and natural gas are part of the environmental solution beyond the climate agreement reached at that summit.
First, what's your take on the Paris agreement reached during the United Nations climate conference in December?
Regarding the agreement reached by the 195 countries, I am pleased that the goal set is more ambitious than expected. Every country has its own specifics and historic background. It's too hard to ask the same efforts of the entire world. I do hope every country will do everything they can and will avoid falling into the trap of having one law for the rich and another for the poor. I got the feeling that all participants understood what’s at stake, the sense of emergency to act, and noticed the mobilisation of the civil society [to] solve the problems. Let’s hope they will go further by boosting innovation. We all need to make our own contribution and stay vigilant.
What's your realistic vision in terms of the energy mix moving forward?
It's a tough question. I do not think we are going to have a single solution trashing all the others. It's all about balancing and mixing energies. I am convinced natural gas will remain a part, important or not, of energy use. It will still be a key element with the addition of new gas technologies--mainly biogases. Gas will also be used to compensate consumption peaks and decreases of renewable energies' use. That's why gas is so important as a flexible source of energy we can compress and expand--adapting the different uses of energies at different times of the day. So gas can be key to improving energy efficiency.
Why was it so important for you to be at the COP21?
Gas is not a 100% clean energy--it's a fossil fuel--but it is the least polluting energy among fossil fuels. Gas will remain in the energy mix. It's important to tell people that natural gas is not as bad as a general audience could think. There are some new developments to make it cleaner, such as Biomethane, Power to Gas or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). There are many positive aspects of natural gas. I'm totally convinced myself.
You are beginning from scratch in France where natural gas and biogas are very limited, right?
We are just getting started in France. It's [already] very developed in Germany. The first contract with an industrial was signed back in September in Chagny. It was the first biomethane injection to the French transmission network.
As for the distribution network, there are already several launched projects. Other projects are being studied and will follow soon.
So it's a big opportunity for you as the use of nuclear energy in the French energy mix will decrease?
It's a big opportunity for us. French consumption is important (from an industrial perspective but also from a public distribution one) but it increases very slowly. Changing from an energetic source of supply to another needs some time. Industrials as a whole are not performing well. The price increase is not helpful. In that context, every initiative promoting the gas industry is welcome. It's a new source of revenue for gas companies, consumers and the entire market.
How is the moving taxation on fuels hurting you?
Taxes on gas are high. By promoting gas projects like biomethane, we clearly send a signal that the gas industry can provide new opportunities in the future. There are cleaner solutions. Hopefully, elected officials and society as a whole will understand the number of possibilities and will not tax these emerging innovations.