As renewable electricity sources continue to take off, Northeast electric and natural gas utility National Grid urges industry not to forget about renewable gas. On Thursday the company said an internal study has revealed that 16% of gas demand in the four states it serves (Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire) could be met by renewable gas, which is also known as bio-methane, a pipeline-quality gas derived from biomass that is fully interchangeable with natural gas.

The white paper, "Renewable Gas -- Vision for a Sustainable Gas Network," discusses the potential sources of renewable gas in the northeastern United States and provides an overview of renewable gas technology as the country moves toward a low-carbon economy. Derived from existing waste sources, the utility, which serves 3.4 million gas customers and 3.3 million electric customers, said renewable gas can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The paper also outlines what a future sustainable gas network could look like, as well as what needs to be done make the vision a reality.

"As we move forward to secure our clean energy future in the U.S., we must look at all the options available to us," said Nick Stavropoulos, COO of U.S. gas distribution at National Grid. "While we do not know what role renewable gas, new technologies or alternative energy sources will play in the future, we do know that it would be irresponsible of us in the energy industry if we didn't take a close look at the possibilities and drive that debate. Our energy future is at a crossroads, and we have to look at all renewable options. Our paper will hopefully stimulate conversation in the industry and encourage support from policymakers."

Solar and wind power have gained national backing over the last few years as an emphasis on weaning the United States off foreign energy sources has been combined with challenge of cleaning up the energy industry's carbon footprint. Earlier this week, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the world's first Clean Energy Ministerial on Tuesday announced that the United States is helping launch 11 international clean energy initiatives designed to cut energy waste; help deploy smart grid, electric vehicle and carbon capture technologies; support renewable energy markets; expand access to clean energy resources and jobs; and support women pursuing careers in clean energy.

The white paper, which can be can be downloaded at www.nationalgridus.com, looks at a natural gas network supplied by conventional resources, as well as unconventional resources such as shale gas and liquefied natural gas. The paper details how the future natural gas network could also carry renewable gas from dairy farms, wastewater treatment plants, landfills, wood waste and food waste plants.

"So far, direct injection of renewable gas has been limited to a small number of projects in the United States," said Donald Chahbazpour of National Grid's sustainable gas group. "With this white paper, we are trying to demonstrate how, along with wind and solar, it is another option to meet the clean energy needs of the future. We also wanted to educate with this white paper, by clearly illustrating how renewable gas is produced and integrated into an existing natural gas network."

National Grid said the white paper's intent is to "foster discussion in the industry about how energy providers, policyholders and other stakeholders should examine the opportunity that renewable gas offers to meet our country's growing energy demands, while ensuring sustainability for future generations."

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