Renewable Propane Gas (rPG) Is in Michigan’s Energy Future

Written on: December 21, 2023

This article by Tom Jaenicke (Executive Director of the Renewable Propane Alliance) first appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of the Michigan Propane Journal from the Michigan Propane Gas Association.
renewable propane gas

There has been a movement in recent months to make green, efficient, and affordable renewable propane gas (rPG) available to more users across the country. Renewable propane is in use by homeowners and businesses in 16 states now, and the total is growing every year. Michigan propane retailers will soon be able to offer renewable propane to consumers in addition to conventional propane to further expand Michigan’s clean energy choices.

No single energy source can solve every environmental challenge. In some states, like Michigan, there is a strong push from activists, policymakers, and elected officials to prioritize forced electrification over traditional fuels and green advancements.

This strategy could be very expensive for households and businesses. It may also increase the problems with the unreliable electricity grid and cause more harm to the energy sector by destroying businesses and jobs. Bringing renewable electricity from other States and even Canada, a practice of some public utilities, is not a good energy security practice either. Renewable propane, like renewable aviation fuel and biodiesel, offers an environmentally friendly liquid fuel answer today that should not be ignored. A diverse energy mix is a reliable energy mix.

Renewable Propane and Conventional Propane

Renewable propane and conventional propane are molecularly identical, also called “fungible.” This means that they can be used interchangeably without needing to make costly changes to the existing network infrastructure. Both renewable and conventional propane can power the most efficient equipment available to Michigan homeowners, commercial businesses, and fleet vehicle operators. The difference is that renewable and conventional propane comes from different feedstock sources. Conventional propane is a natural byproduct of petroleum energy production, while renewable propane is sourced from renewable feedstocks such as FOG (fats, oils, and grease), plant oils from corn and soybeans, and oils from non-food rotation crops such as switchgrass and camelina sativa. A wide array of companies, from start-ups to long-time energy producers, are entering or expanding into the renewable propane production business. Innovators such as Global Clean Energy and Renewable Energy Group are actively producing renewable propane, and several of the energy giants, such as Chevron and Marathon Oil, are also entering the renewable propane market.

Meeting Michigan’s Propane Needs

There will be plenty of renewable propane production to meet future Michigan green energy needs. The potential for renewable propane sales in Michigan, including the resulting environmental benefits, is tremendous. Approximately 600 million gallons of conventional propane are currently being sold to Michigan consumers on an annual basis. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), propane comprises 8.7 percent of all energy use in Michigan. An estimated 320,000 Michigan households use propane as a primary heat source, placing it #1 in residential propane use in the nation. Nearly 24 percent of residents in some Northern Michigan counties count on propane to heat their homes, and it provides energy for other household uses. The wholesale and retail propane supply network adds over $3 billion to the Michigan economy. The companies involved in providing propane to consumers are family-owned businesses or locally managed business units, providing jobs to thousands of workers throughout Michigan.

Decarbonizing Michigan

Conventional propane already has a much lower carbon index (CI) profile than Michigan grid electricity. The CI (gCO2eq/Mj) is a relatively new method of energy rating that measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted compared to the amount of energy produced. According to the Propane Education & Research Council, Michigan grid electricity currently has a CI of 152, much higher than conventional propane at a CI of 79. Renewable propane, newer on the scene, can have a carbon index as low as net-zero, offering an even better environmental advantage over Michigan grid electricity.

Today, most people agree that we should explore every possible avenue to decarbonize how we power our vehicles, heat our homes, and fuel our residential and commercial equipment. As with all major challenges, creating a more environmentally friendly future requires innovative thinking and buy-in from both public and private stakeholders. The introduction of renewable propane is innovative thinking turned into a green energy reality, and it’s coming to Michigan sooner than you think.

Contact us for more information about renewable propane in Michigan and throughout the U.S.