Close-up on California’s Renewable Propane Bill

Written on: June 13, 2021

Get to know the Innovative Renewable Energy for Buildings Act of 2021 and why it’s so important.

renewable propane california

As awareness of renewable propane ramps up around the country, California remains at the front of the pack. A great example of how the state is maintaining its position as a leader in this space is the Innovative Renewable Energy Buildings Act (AB 1559), which addresses several important—and pressing issues—including the clean energy gap between renewable electricity customers and those who are off the grid (as well as many people in between).

The Innovative Renewable Energy for Buildings Act of 2021 would require the California Energy Commission to establish and implement a program to provide financial incentives for the production of renewable propane, including blends with renewable hydrogen or dimethyl ether, which is used as an energy source for buildings in the state.

Joy Alafia, president of the Western Propane Gas Association, walked us through the bill. She offered insight about the strongest points of the bill as well as many of the ways propane offers an “accelerated and equitable path to carbon neutrality.”

The Focus of the Bill

This is a bill to provide clean energy equity to communities that currently are not being served with a renewable solution.
A Closer Look: This focus begs the question, Why are some communities NOT being served with a renewable solution? A few factors provide the main reasons. Some communities are off the grid in more remote locations, or they may be in areas where other renewable solutions are just not feasible, according to Alafia, who emphasized the value of providing a renewable energy source to populations whose needs are currently not met. California has taken the steps to provide electricity generated from renewable natural gas. Still, Alafia points out that more needs to be done for those communities that do not get their electricity from the grid. This bill solves that problem.

It will be part of the solution in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A Closer Look: Having renewable propane helps to decarbonize our building energy, and, again, provide a clean energy solution for consumers. California has a goal to provide 100% renewable propane in California, for all markets by 2050. That would have the impact of averting 2.2 6 million tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of taking about 537,000 cars off the road every year.

The strain on the grid is very real. We need a portfolio of clean energy solutions, and renewable propane is part of that mix.
A Closer Look: It’s problematic for vulnerable communities that rely on electricity in order to operate. It poses a challenge for businesses. “I’ve experienced a few power shutoffs during the business day,” said Alafia. “That affects our productivity, which I’m sure will be tied to our GDP…I’ve gone to city council meetings where small business owners have expressed frustration on the impact to small shops having to shut down because of power outages and the like. It’s a real problem.”

Current Situation

For those who are on the grid, there’s still the need for supplemental clean energy solutions.
A Closer Look: “I’m really excited about the opportunity to have integrated clean energy solutions working comprehensively to satisfy consumers’ power needs,” said Alafia. Right now, consumers in California and elsewhere are being asked to conserve their electricity consumption due to strain on the current grid.

Electricity costs are on the rise.
A Closer Look: “We do have both an energy crisis and housing crisis in California,” said Alafia. “This is why it’s really important to provide affordable, clean energy solutions in our state. Right now, the average home in California is $814,000. And unfortunately, electricity costs in many areas are increasing by high single and/or double digits. So that’s another reason to provide other, more affordable energy options, and propane has historically not seen such a steep increase in costs to consumers so they’re better able to manage their energy costs.”

Looking Ahead

The renewable propane industry offers a logical way to transition our workforce to green jobs.
A Closer Look: The United States seeks to transition to a green economy. This is a fantastic way to convert blue-collar jobs to green-collar jobs. There’s no new skill set required for distribution and propane workers—it’s the same molecule.

Households will feel the difference.
A Closer Look: About 70% of the homes in California were built before 1980. That’s important because a lot of building regulations in our state that deal with energy efficiency were not introduced until after 1980. So these homes are going to be some of the toughest to decarbonize, or make more efficient. And renewable propane provides, again, an option, part of the solution for how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the existing homes.

A Promising Future

“We have the capacity, right now, to potentially produce enough renewable propane to satisfy our entire building market by the year 2025, but it’s not going to happen without this legislation,” said Alafia. “What renewable propane can do that no other renewable solution can do is, kind of, a cost effectiveness for carbon reductions. We could do it quickly and cheaply. It’s one of many investments that we need to make.”

What topics in the world of renewable propane would you like to see us cover? Let us know!