Role of biomethane in energy transition and in energy circular economy, in and around urban contexts

The meeting focused on the role that biogas and biomethane can play in the energy transition and on how to develop energy strategies able to develop their potential.

G20 special event: The role of biomethane in the energy transition and in energy circular economy, in and around urban contexts

The special event of the Italian G20 on Energy and Climate, organized by the Presidency in collaboration with IEA, GSE, Eni and Snam on April 15th, was chaired by Mr. Andrea Lo Presti (Ministry for Ecological Transition) and focused on the role that biogas and biomethane can play in the energy transition, and on how to develop energy strategies and policies able to best develop their potential.

Indeed, biogas and biomethane are two sources of energy lying at the intersection of two critical challenges of modern life: dealing with the increasing amount of organic waste that is produced by modern societies and economies; and preventing emissions across the whole value chain. The workshop underlined the untapped potential of biogas and biomethane, considering that liquids and gases will still account for the majority of energy consumption in 2040, and that a higher penetration of low-carbon energy carriers is needed. The role of biogas and biomethane is particularly relevant in the hard-to-abate sectors, and as a means of providing baseload renewable electricity and clean cooking, especially in developing economies.

Another significant benefit concerns the transport sector, which is globally still responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. The production of biogas and biomethane from organic waste can activate circular economy models – particularly, but not only in the urban contexts – and enhance the security of supply, while reducing waste management costs, creating jobs and increasing resource efficiency. Their production process may greatly reduce emissions also in the farming sector, contributing to restore organic material to the soil.

Policies that recognize these multiple co-benefits are therefore crucial in order to overcome the competitiveness gap with lower-cost fossil fuels. New business models and access to financing are needed to scale up markets for low carbon gases.

In this perspective, Italy was mentioned among the leaders in this process. In particular, in Italy, an incentivizing scheme was set in 2018, with a duration of 20 years, based on the emission of blending obligation certificates, paid at fixed price in case of sustainable advanced biomethane and biofuels from waste and non-food feedstock. Indeed, according to reliable studies, in Italy, by using completely the Organic Fraction of Municipal Waste Separately Collected (OFMWSC), it would be possible to produce the quantity of biomethane corresponding to about 40% of the natural gas currently used in transport.

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