CenterPoint Energy gains approval for made-in-Minnesota RNG

By CenterPoint Energy | November 25, 2020

CenterPoint Energy announced Nov. 19 it has received approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to open its natural gas distribution system to made-in-Minnesota renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG is produced by recycling biogas from organic materials such as agricultural manure, wastewater and commercial food waste.

Earlier this year, CenterPoint Energy submitted the proposal to allow Minnesota RNG suppliers to "interconnect" with its pipeline system. Suppliers would pay for the interconnection, with no cost to the utility's customers. CenterPoint Energy will require RNG suppliers to meet gas quality standards, including ongoing testing, to ensure that RNG entering the utility's system is interchangeable with conventional natural gas.

CenterPoint Energy is the state's largest natural gas utility, serving more than 870,000 customers in 260 communities.

The RNG proposal was supported by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which called the proposal "innovative" and said it "appreciates CenterPoint Energy's efforts to provide an opportunity for RNG producers and/or developers who are concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or encouraging domestic energy use."

In addition, 20 different organizations and businesses, including prospective RNG producers and project developers, submitted comments to the Commission in support of the proposal. The Commission approved the proposal after adding several technical modifications and reporting requirements.

"Renewable natural gas is part of CenterPoint Energy's ongoing commitment to pursue innovative clean energy solutions," said Brad Tutunjian, vice president of Minnesota Regional Operations. "We are already in discussions with potential RNG producers who are interested in the opportunity to work with us to build a Minnesota RNG industry that can help diversify our energy supply, improve waste management and boost the economy, especially in rural areas."

RNG has significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering a productive use for waste methane gas that might otherwise be released directly into the air and by replacing conventional fossil-fuel natural gas with a renewable resource. Depending on the source, RNG can even have a net negative carbon impact (taking more carbon out of the environment than it produces).

Interconnection with CenterPoint Energy's distribution system can promote Minnesota RNG production by making it easier for producers to sell their product to existing markets. Initially, Minnesota-made RNG is expected to pass through interstate pipelines for use in other states that offer financial incentives. But CenterPoint Energy ultimately hopes to make RNG available to its customers in Minnesota.

As part of its commitment to clean energy innovation, CenterPoint Energy has also proposed the bipartisan Natural Gas Innovation Act at the Minnesota Legislature. It would allow a natural gas utility to submit an alternative resource plan with the Public Utilities Commission to invest further in alternative fuels, such as RNG and renewable hydrogen, as well as new energy-efficiency and carbon-capture technologies to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions

While the Senate passed the legislation earlier this year by a 62-4 margin, the House did not take action before adjournment. The legislation will be re-introduced in 2021.