Efforts are underway to correct what is, at best, an oversight that has left a wide range of renewable energy generation out of the regulatory purview of the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). By not including qualifying renewable electricity as eligible under the RFS as a fuel for electric vehicles (EVs), those who generate these alternative sources are losing market opportunities and policy makers are failing to take the steps needed as EV sales grow.
Three trade associations representing renewable electricity producers have created the RFS Power Coalition, which is calling on the EPA to fully implement the RFS as expanded by Congress in 2007 and mandate the inclusion in the program of renewable electricity for EVs.
The Biomass Power Association, American Biogas Council and Energy Recovery Council represent, respectively, domestic biomass power producers who use organic fuels like forest residues; biogas-to-electricity producers like dairy farmers and wastewater treatment facilities; and waste-to-energy producers.
The coalition says that despite support in Congress and pleas from stakeholders, EPA has not yet processed a single electricity application out of dozens submitted to the agency.
All three feedstocks cited by the coalition to produce electricity to power EVs – biomass, biogas and biogenic waste – qualify as renewable transportation fuels that should be included in the D3 cellulosic and D5 advanced fuel categories of the RFS. (Because it serves as a fuel for EVs, renewable electricity has no bearing on the market for other renewable fuels like corn ethanol, which helps fuel internal combustion engines and fall into the D6 RIN category.) However, EPA has yet to include electricity in any annual renewable volume obligation (RVO) targets, including those set for this year.
In an effort to force the agency to act, the three groups filed a petition last week in the D.C. Circuit Court challenging the agency’s 2019 RVOs. Coalition leaders say EPA has had more than enough time – 11 years since the RFS was reauthorized and strengthened – to implement the law as Congress intended, but has failed to do so.
EPA has received more than 40 applications from electricity producers to participate in the RFS program. Those 40 projects were developed, investors committed funding and partners lined up to build new infrastructure using waste biomass alone to produce renewable electricity. However, the projects sit dormant due to EPA’s inaction to administer the program.
Biogas applicants, which include dairy farmers, food waste systems and wastewater facilities, could all be building the valuable new infrastructure America needs to recycle organic material – matter that would otherwise be wasted – into renewable energy and soil products.
The coalition estimates that the inclusion of electricity would result in about 200 million gasoline gallon equivalents being designated as D3 cellulosic fuel, an RFS category that includes liquid and gaseous biogas fuels and currently totals 419 million gallons. For additional context, consider that the total for all RVO categories this year is 27 billion gallons, which means including the renewable electricity would add less than 1 percent to the total volume of fuels for 2019.
The implementation of an “eRIN” program has received significant support on Capitol Hill – members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have asked EPA to start approving renewable electricity applications. Scores of facility owners and companies that want to do business and create jobs have also weighed in to the EPA about the impact of the agency’s continued failure to implement the program.
Solutions from the Land supports this effort and believes EPA would do well to not only avoid litigation, but take good advantage of land-based solutions that reduce climate changing emissions by setting renewable electricity targets and approving projects that can generate revenues in rural America.