Misinformation and lack of understanding about the costs and benefits of anaerobic digestion and biogas hinder market growth in many states. The industry requires strong leadership to bring stakeholders together, provide critical information about costs, and facilitate large-scale deployment throughout a state. Creating a state-based biogas working group would help cultivate strong leadership, educate policymakers, foster strategic public-private relationships, and identify opportunities for growth. State policymakers could look to Wisconsin for an example of an effective biogas working group.
The Wisconsin Biogas Development Group—a public-private partnership through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection—has worked for over a decade to make the state a leader in the U.S. biogas sector.
A state biogas working group would help foster relationships and build networks to grow the industry. At the outset, the governor’s office could create a biogas task force consisting of representatives from the state agencies affiliated with the environment, agriculture, economic development, private industry, and more. The task force could identify potential members, organize the working group, and host a kickoff meeting.
Once formed, the working group could identify areas in which the state could recruit large-scale developers and support biogas companies as they grow. Additionally, it could work closely with the governor’s office to identify and recruit foreign companies in the biogas supply chain to open manufacturing operations in a given state. The working group could also work with local officials to facilitate and streamline the biogas project development process. The group could collaborate with utilities and government to create standardized documentation, including a biogas “toolkit” to reduce soft costs; identify financing options; streamline the timing of project development; and improve the regulatory framework for renewable natural gas injection into pipelines.
The working group could collaborate with local stakeholder groups with resources devoted to agricultural education and that are well-known and trusted in the farming community to disseminate information and facilitate outreach. Educating farmers about how they can maximize returns from anaerobic digestion—by selling digestate, increasing efficiency by adding additional feedstocks (co-digestion), and tipping fees—is a simple way of increasing uptake.
The working group could also help create an aggregate purchasing agreement with manufacturers of digester equipment. By collecting potential purchasers into a bundle, the group could negotiate volume discounts with manufacturers.
Establishing a biogas working group will send a market signal that a state is committed to becoming a leader in the industry and that it is primed for project development.