The potential for biogas in Aotearoa

Powerco has co-commissioned an independent report with Clarus and Ecogas looking at the potential for biogas to reduce Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions and increase renewable energy.

The Blunomy report formed part of an aligned submission to MBIE on the Gas Transition Issues Paper in November 2023.

It shows how the energy, agricultural and waste sectors could collaborate to reduce New Zealand’s emissions by capturing biogas produced from organic waste breaking down and using it to produce renewable natural gas for the gas network.

In doing so Aotearoa would reduce its emissions and waste volume, and grow the percentage of renewable energy being used.


Key findings of the report 

The report found that there’s currently 4.9PJ of biogas being produced in New Zealand annually, most of which is being flared as part of waste processing.

With a further 9.5PJ of untapped potential in the North Island and 9.1PJ in the South Island, up to 23.5PJ of biogas could be produced annually across New Zealand.

In producing that volume of biogas, Aotearoa would reduce its annual emissions by 3.7mtCO2-e – contributing up to 27% of the Emissions Reduction Plan target of reducing emissions by 14 – 28mtCO2-e by 2050. 

It would also contribute 23% of the reductions of waste from landfill required to meet our annual target of 2.5Mt municipal landfill waste per annum by 2050.

If 11PJ of biogas was supplied through the gas network it could increase the use of new renewable energy in New Zealand by 9% as the country works towards a goal of 50% renewable energy by 2035.

Currently, the 290,000 homes connected to gas use 6.8PJ annually.

Read the full report Vision for biogas in Aotearoa New Zealand.


The role of gas in the energy transition

Powerco’s General Manager, Gas Don Elers says the report shows biogas is worth exploring as part of the overall energy transition.

“Gas is a critical part of New Zealand’s energy mix. We’ll continue to need natural gas to support the energy transition so we can continue to supply our customers with reliable energy while the electricity sector increases its capacity using intermittent renewables like wind, solar and hydro and while other options like battery storage come onstream.”

“We also need to look at more sustainable gas options – like biogas. What excites me about the opportunity presented by biogas is that there are complementary objectives between the agricultural, waste and energy sectors here – they’re looking at how to be more sustainable and so are we. We can collaborate to create positive solutions for Aotearoa.”


Poised to lead collaboration

With such a compelling case to increase the production of biogas and use it in the gas network, the Powerco team is now looking at next steps to make the opportunity a reality.

Don Elers says collaboration will be the key to success.

“We need to be working in a much wider eco-system than just energy – looking not just at our own network footprint or our own solution, but to be part of solutions that address the broader range of sustainability challenges like reducing waste, and other sectors’ emissions,” he says.

“As Aotearoa’s largest dual-energy distributor by network length, operating across many of the major primary industry and agricultural centres of the North Island, we’re perfectly poised to lead that collaboration.”

That’s why Powerco recently appointed David Hendry as its Renewable Gas Manager to work across industry on exploring options like biogas.

“We’re 100% behind a net-zero carbon future for Aotearoa. To get there, New Zealand will need a mix of energy options including renewable low and zero-carbon gases like biogas and hydrogen. I look forward to collaborating with industry on exploring these alternatives to natural gas that could one day flow through our existing infrastructure,” David says.