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Midwest Utility Turning to Cows, Landfills for a Gas Alternative

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 8/23/2018 Naureen S. Malik

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(Bloomberg) -- CenterPoint Energy Inc. wants to introduce a pilot program in Minnesota offering customers access to a renewable form of natural gas recovered from dairy farms and landfills.

It’s the first such program in the Midwest, mirroring the push by utilities to offer electricity powered by wind or solar. Methane produced by everything from manure to rotting garbage is the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide, and environmentalists have long been looking for ways to reduce its emissions.

Under a plan filed Thursday with the state, CenterPoint will let customers enroll in a voluntary, budget-based program to buy the fuel -- processed to be chemically identical to natural gas -- starting in Spring 2019. The hook: It’ll cost about 7 times more than the traditional version. Still, the company’s confident of a positive response.

“We’ve heard from our customers that they want to have options for how they get their energy, and that many of them are interested in using more renewable energy,” Nick Mark, manager of conservation and renewable energy policy for the Houston-based utility, said in an emailed statement. “We think it can help Minnesota achieve its energy policy goals as well as achieving environmental benefits.”

To access the program, households would need to make a commitment of at least $1 a month for a year. If the program’s approved, Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission will set the final cost.

Minnesota accounts for about a quarter of the 3.5 million gas customers that CenterPoint serves in six states.

RNG, which can be produced from cow, pig or even human waste and from gas emitted off the decomposing contents of landfills, is an emerging, environmentally friendly renewable fuel that doesn’t have blending limits. Utilities including Duke Energy Corp. and National Grid Plc and trucking fleets are already investing in it.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naureen S. Malik in New York at nmalik28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net, Joe Ryan

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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