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Ongoing energy transitions promise to stimulate numerous shifts in the types of energy produced and consumed globally. Electrifying end-use sectors, a shift towards low-carbon electricity generation and enhanced efficiency efforts are all central to this. But these elements alone are unlikely to provide the lowest-cost route towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Liquids and gases have some characteristics that mean they too can form a critical part of the solution.
Within this framework, biogas could play a vital role in accelerating energy access while helping to tackle air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biogas is a mature energy source and can be produced through anaerobic digesters, using feedstocks such as organic waste, energy crops, municipal solid waste and sewage. It can be deployed relatively easily, even in the most rural areas of developing economies, at varying scales, and provide a dispatchable and renewable source of electricity and heat.
Another option is renewable natural gas, which has rapidly risen up the policy agenda in recent years. Produced from organic material and consisting of a near-pure source of methane, it offers an important mechanism to reduce or eliminate emissions from the consumption of gas, while also helping to enhance energy security. It is particularly attractive in areas with well-established gas networks.
The International Energy Agency is conducting an in-depth study on these topics to assess both the potential roles for biogas, especially in developing economies, and to understand the role of renewable natural gas in helping to reducing emissions along the gas supply chain.