Vanguard Renewables recognized with Energy Vision awards for advancing adoption of low-carbon fuel
[New York, NY – October 9] Energy Vision (EV), a non-profit research institute which studies and promotes viable decarbonization technologies for energy and transport, held its 14th annual awards event last night (virtually this year due to Covid). EV presented its annual awards for leadership and innovation in sustainability to three organizations that have helped advance adoption of renewable natural gas (RNG), a low-carbon fuel made from organic waste: New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port of Seattle at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and Vanguard Renewables.
RNG is made by capturing the methane biogases emitted as food, agricultural manure, and other organic wastes decompose, preventing these potent greenhouse gases from escaping into the air. The gases are then refined into fuel that is chemically similar to fossil natural gas, but vastly superior in terms of its impacts. It involves no drilling or fracking, it’s fully renewable and clean burning, and it has the lowest lifecycle GHG emissions of any currently available fuel. When food wastes and manures are the feedstocks, RNG is net carbon-negative over its lifecycle, which means that more GHG is captured in making it than is ever emitted by the vehicles burning it.
“RNG is not ‘on the horizon;’ it’s a here-and-now technology, scaling fast,” said Joanna Underwood, Energy Vision founder and trustee. “The RNG industry has been growing rapidly over the last decade. Companies, utilities, and municipal governments are increasingly harnessing the huge volume of organic waste that this country produces. The more methane we capture and use, the more emissions go down.”
In the U.S. 130 RNG-producing projects are currently operational, and another 80 are under development. And more than 40,000 heavy duty vehicles are already using this fuel. The 2020 Energy Vision awardees helped lead the growing trend toward RNG adoption.
The first awardee of the evening, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has the largest transit bus fleet in the U.S. It has committed to switching its more than 700 compressed natural gas buses from fossil gas to RNG.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities to reduce our environmental impact,” said Craig Cipriano, president of the MTA Bus Company and Senior Vice President of New York City Transit Department of Buses, who accepted the Energy Vision award. “Part of that is our commitment to CNG buses. On its own CNG emits fewer tailpipe emissions than diesel, and now with our conversion to RNG we’ve reduced emissions even further. Switching our bus fleet to RNG will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40,000 tons per year — the equivalent of taking 5000 cars off the road.”
The next awardee, the Port of Seattle, owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which was a top-10 U.S. airport in 2019. It began purchasing RNG from Wisconsin-based US Gain on October 1, using it to power its shuttle buses and heat airport buildings. SEA is the first airport in the U.S. to switch from natural gas to RNG to heat its terminal.
“The carbon footprint of our airport operations is dominated by natural gas combustion,” said Stephanie Meyn, the Port of Seattle’s Climate Program Manager as she accepted the Energy Vision award. “Our natural gas boilers are responsible for 80% of the airport’s carbon footprint and we don’t have a simple solution for replacing them in the near future. That’s why switching to a thermal supply of RNG is an ideal solution for us. Thanks to this RNG contract, we’re meeting the Port’s  50% [carbon emissions] reduction goal a decade early.”
The third awardee, Vanguard Renewables, works with America’s farmers, the food and beverage manufacturers, food retailers, institutions and utilities to collect food waste, combine it with dairy manure in an anaerobic digester, and convert it into renewable natural gas or renewable electricity and vehicle fuel. Vanguard is also a leading developer of anaerobic digestion projects on farms which convert agricultural manure to RNG. It has developed and operates six anaerobic digesters and an Organics Recycling Facility. One of its digester in Vermont will convert both food waste and dairy manure to RNG to help power Middlebury College as part of Middlebury’s commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral campus. Vanguard recently announced major partnerships with Dairy Farmers of America and Dominion Energy to build and operate a network of manure-only digesters and co-digestion facilities across many states. Through its lead investor Vision Ridge, Vanguard and its partners have committed to raising and deploying $1 billion to convert dairy manure to RNG.
“Organic waste has two pathways,” said John Hanselman, Vanguard Renewables’ chair and CEO, as he accepted the Energy Vision award. “One ends up being a dangerous GHG contributor, and the other is a pathway to renewable energy and regenerative agriculture. We are delighted to empower that second pathway. Every part of our nation can be empowered with organics recycling and we are excited to be actively developing facilities in over a dozen states in the Union. We see that as one of the most important things we can do for the U.S. energy future and for the climate.”