A new study released by the European Biogas Association (EBA) shows that, in 2030, the whole-system benefits of biomethane (aka renewable natural gas - RNG) production in the EU27 and the UK could range from EUR 38-78 billion per year, rising to EUR 133-283 billion by 2050.
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According to the EBA, these figures are comparable to the GDPs of Luxembourg and Finland in 2021 respectively. Values represented are likely an underestimate, as not all externalities were quantified.
The study, “Beyond energy: monetising biomethane’s whole system benefits” shows that anaerobic digestion (AD) could deliver an additional benefit of EUR 84-175 per MWh of biomethane produced, while thermal gasification could deliver an additional EUR 80-162 per MWh.
These benefits outweigh the current cost of producing biomethane through these technologies – EUR 55-100 per MWh for AD and thermal gasification respectively.
Currently, producers of biomethane are primarily rewarded for contributing to renewable energy targets via support or market-based mechanisms.
The additional positive externalities that biomethane production delivers are currently not fully rewarded or recognized by society at large.
Quantifying the value of benefits
The study, which was undertaken by Guidehouse, quantified the value of these benefits for a selection of sustainable feedstocks relevant to AD and thermal gasification biomethane production technologies.
The reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as the recovery of biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) during the production process, is a key value driver. Other whole-system benefits such as energy security, job creation, and waste processing are also playing an increasingly significant role over the next few decades.
This report sheds light on the added value of biomethane for our society, beyond renewable energy provision. The biomethane industry, policymakers, and regulators need to work closely together to fully realize these benefits, prioritizing organic waste and residue feedstocks, incentivizing sustainable agricultural production, and valorizing biomethane co-products such as digestate and biogenic CO2, commented Giulia Cancian, EBA Secretary General.