Biomethane is the little brother of natural gas. They have similar characteristics and practically the same uses, although with the fundamental difference that biomethane is considered a renewable fuel. In its fermentation process, biowaste, energy crops, sewage sludge or organic household and industrial waste release biogas, which, once refined in a treatment known as upgrading, raises the proportion of methane levels to a sufficient purity to inject it into the distribution network. It is not really a new energy source - inGalicia there are 9 agro-industrial plants, 7 linked to sewage treatment plants and one that uses solid urban waste -but the fifth step in decarbonization and the drive towards the circular economy have made it a lever to tackle Spain's dependence on fossil fuel imports and, incidentally, to collaborate in waste management. "Moreover, being closely linked to the rural world, it is a perfect ally for the achievement of the economic recovery agenda and the fight against the demographic challenge and the depopulation of rural areas", highlights the Sedigas employers' association in the study of biomethane production capacity in Spain prepared with the consulting firms PwC and Biovic.
The potential generation in the whole country reaches 163 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, of which about 8 correspond to Galicia, 38% of its gas consumption. Livestock concentrates almost a third of the biomethane production capacity in the community, "specifically, animal excrement, together with the meat and dairy industry" due to the strong development of the primary sector. The share of residual forest biomass reaches 27%; 19% would come from the so-called intermediate crops - fast-growing plants combined with other regular crops -; and 9% from the agri-food industry, among the main origins.
Sedigas calculates that to take advantage of all these resources in Galicia it is possible to open up to 121 biomethane production plants with an investment of close to 2,100 million euros, not counting the disbursement necessary for connection to the gas networks, another 186 million. "A degree of investment -he argues- that would be favored by the location of 68% of the plants in municipalities where there is already a gas network". The construction would create 1,818 direct jobs and almost 1,000 more in the operation phase. The vast majority of the facilities, 92, would be fed with agri-food, livestock and agricultural waste and sludge from water treatment plants.
For Joan Batalla, president of Sedigas, renewable gases and, especially biomethane, is an "opportunity" for Galicia as "a green and cost-efficient solution to advance in decarbonization". "We must not forget that its development is closely linked to the rural world," he stresses, "so its deployment would bring greater wealth to the regional economy." The gas employers' association calls for "incentives" for the interconnection of the plants to the grid and urges the administrations to "prioritize" the energy valuation of agricultural waste.
The Government lowers the regulated tariff by 30%.
The Government provokes another shake-up in the gas sector. The aid it is injecting to lower the regulated gas tariff had already broken the market and caused the transfer of almost one million customers in just six months to subsidized rates. Now, with the quarterly review of prices applied to last resort tariffs (TUR), the Executive announces an average reduction of 29.9% as from April 1st and during the next quarter. The Official State Gazette (BOE) yesterday included a resolution of the Ministry for Ecological Transition with the new values that reflect the sharp decline in gas prices in the formula for calculating the TUR and the decision that the General State Budget (PGE) assume the debt accumulated with the sector for the establishment of extraordinary measures to limit the impact of the war in Ukraine, in October 2022. According to the Government, since then, in annual terms, households covered by the TUR have saved between 100 and 300 euros on average, depending on their consumption, and SMEs have saved more than 700 euros. The TUR is a regulated tariff available to any consumer connected to the natural gas networks with a consumption of less than 50,000 kWh per year, whose price the Government reviews quarterly and to which it now applies 40% reductions thanks to capping maximum increases, and there are currently some 2.5 million households and SMEs covered by it.