Chris Voell, Program Manager, AgSTAR, US EPA
What stage do you think the North American biogas industry is at now? What competitive advantages are there for biogas compared with other types of renewables?
It’s in mature infancy - the technology is ready; but the energy policy is not. The benefits of biogas use are much more robust than other types of renewables: direct and indirect greenhouse gas reductions, reducing existing environmental concerns, the opportunity for expanded farm and rural revenues, improved quality of life for communities and value-added market streams. None of the other renewable energy resources bring as many direct and indirect benefits as waste biogas use.
What challenges are lying there for the biogas industry to develop to the next level?
Most people define renewable energy as ‘electricity generation.’ We need to change minds to thinking that biogas use for other purposes is as (if not more) important. Lack of education on the overall benefits of biogas use impedes appropriate policy development to provide incentives.
In your opinion, are the policies or regulations supportive enough for the biogas industry?
No. In fact, in many places policies are a disincentive to project development.
What can be done to improve finance, investment and off take biogas projects?
Business models must be developed that provide incentives for the project developer to choose technology and operating practices that guarantee project success. The financial community must be convinced that biogas capture technology is not the issue; it is making sure the project is structured in a way that will ensure financial feasibility.
How do you see this event? What goals and objectives are you trying to achieve at the event? What do you expect to hear at the event?
We need to convince attendees that market transformation will not occur without significant policy changes at the state and federal level, and that they need to spend time and resources on this effort.