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Liberty Utilities proposes renewable gas project at private Bethlehem landfill

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 27. 2018 10:59PM




Liberty Utilities announced Thursday it is proposing a new renewable natural gas production facility at a privately owned Bethlehem landfill that it says will lower gas bills for New Hampshire customers starting next summer.

“We intend for this project to be the first of many in New Hampshire, and Liberty Utilities plans to be at the center of this growing local clean energy industry,” said Susan Fleck, president of Liberty Utilities’ New Hampshire operations.

“Our team is currently working with communities across New Hampshire on similar projects, and we hope to announce more New Hampshire RNG projects in the future,” Fleck said.

Liberty will spend $15.3 million to construct the facility at the landfill, owned by Casella Waste Systems, at 581 Trudeau Road, according to Liberty spokesman Emily Burnett.

Liberty Utilities plans to use the new gas supply from Bethlehem to serve customers in Keene, who currently get propane trucked in, as well as customers in the other 31 communities Liberty serves in central and southern New Hampshire.

“We know reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change is important to many Granite Staters,” Fleck said. “It’s important to us, too.”

The project is expected to provide about 475,000 dekatherms of renewable natural gas annually in the first 10 years of operation, all to be used by New Hampshire customers.

A typical New Hampshire home uses about 78 dekatherms of natural gas per year.

Liberty’s existing customers would start receiving the renewable natural gas starting in the summer of 2019 if the state Public Utilities Commission approves the project.

The gas from this project is comparable in cost to conventional natural gas, but Liberty Utilities said the state’s thermal renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to buy a certain percentage of renewable energy credits, would help lower costs, so customers would pay less for the renewable natural gas than for conventional natural gas on a yearly basis based on recent pricing.

Burnett didn’t have an estimate on savings for gas customers but said electric customers also would save an estimated $4 million over 10 years because of less spending on the renewable energy credits.

The project would produce 30 to 50 temporary skilled labor jobs over three to four months during construction. There would be around 10 full-time jobs created to operate the plant, she said.

The town of Bethlehem also will receive higher property taxes from the landfill.

Burnett said with the Bethlehem project, “We’re going to capture all the methane that is being released from the decomposing material (at the landfill),” Burnett said.

The project will process the captured gas so that it will match the chemical composition of conventional natural gas.

Liberty Utilities will then provide the gas to more than 92,000 homes and businesses it serves in New Hampshire.

“This project will reduce air emissions, develop a local renewable resource, lower fuel costs for our customers and create jobs and economic development in the North Country,” Fleck said.

The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas praised the utility’s efforts.

“By moving forward with RNG, Liberty Utilities is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and to the environment,” David Cox, the group’s director of operations and general counsel, said in Liberty’s statement.

“RNG helps address society’s waste and resource management problems by harnessing the energy of gas that would otherwise vent to the atmosphere or be flared without purpose.”

Liberty Utilities provides services to 92,000 natural gas and 44,000 electric distribution customers in New Hampshire.


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