CLINTON, Maine (May 23, 2019) – Peaks Renewables (Peaks), a subsidiary of Summit Utilities, Inc. (Summit), today announced a new renewable natural gas program aimed at supporting the local economy and fighting climate change. The program outlines three steps the company is taking to build a sustainable energy future:
“This is an exciting project and the next step in Summit’s ongoing effort to build a sustainable energy future by investing in innovative technologies that mitigate climate change,” said Kurt Adams, Summit’s President and CEO. “Since coming to Maine in 2013, we’ve been able to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 69,000 metric tons a year through conversions to natural gas and energy efficiency upgrades. That’s like taking 15,000 cars off the road forever. Our renewable program is the next step in our ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas. It’s simply the right thing to do for our customers, our business, and our children.”
Peaks plans to invest approximately $20 million on this program.
“We are excited to be investing significant resources to create green, renewable jobs in Maine,” added Adams.
Summit began constructing its natural gas system in Maine in 2013. Since that time, the company has invested more than $340 million to make natural gas available to customers throughout the Kennebec Valley, Cumberland, Falmouth, and Yarmouth. The company has also provided $3 million in energy efficiency rebates to convert residential, commercial, and large industrial customers from oil to natural gas using high efficiency equipment. In Maine, more than 60 percent of homes heat with oil, which generate 27 percent more carbon emissions than if they were heated with natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Adding efficient equipment can reduce emissions by an additional 11 percent according to data from Efficiency Maine. In total, that means the typical customer switching from old oil equipment to efficient natural gas heat could reduce their carbon emissions by 38 percent. This is a carbon avoidance equivalent to installing solar panels systems to meet a family’s yearly electric needs on two Maine homes.
The company’s renewable gas program is the next step in its effort to build a sustainable energy future in Maine.
Investing in Home-Grown Renewable Natural Gas
Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane, is derived from the decomposition of naturally occurring organic waste from landfills, waste treatment plants, industrial sites and farms. Unless captured and reused, much of the emissions created from the organic waste at these facilities would be released into the atmosphere in the form of methane – one of the most potent greenhouse gasses.
Peaks is constructing an anaerobic digestion facility in Clinton, known as Maine’s dairy capital, because its five dairy farms make up 17 percent of the state’s dairy production. The digester facility will receive dairy manure from multiple family farms in Clinton and other areas in Maine. Once in the digester, the manure will be heated and decomposed, creating biogas. The gas will then be cleaned to remove impurities and injected into Summit’s system. Renewable Natural Gas is nearly identical to traditional natural gas and can be used for heating, cooking, and other processes. The renewable attributes from the digester will be sold to third parties to help them meet their emissions reduction goals.
Peaks anticipates the digester will supply approximately 125,000 MMBtu of gas a year. For reference, that is about 45 percent of the company’s Maine annual residential gas demand.
Peaks expects the digester will be commissioned and producing gas by the first quarter of 2023 pending approval and permitting from the proper regulatory bodies.
Peaks is partnering with Flood Brothers Farm, Caverly Farms, Misty Meadows Farm, Wright Place Farm, Taylor Dairy Farm, Veazland Farm, Simpson View Farm and Gold-Top Farm to obtain organic waste for its facility.
“As a dairy farmer, Mainer, and mom, I know how important it is to find new and sustainable ways to protect our land for future generations, care for our animals and produce fresh, quality milk for our neighbors,” said Jenni Tilton-Flood, farm family member of Flood Brothers Farm. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with Peaks to create renewable natural gas from the resources on our farm makes it possible for us to enhance our sustainability efforts. We know our cows are amazing and we’re so excited about this partnership that unlocks the potential of our farms, our farmers, and our cows to play a role in generating a clean, renewable energy source.”
Jumpstarting the Renewable Natural Gas Industry and Displacing Emissions Through Attributes
In addition to developing an RNG digester, Summit plans to match 5 percent of its Maine residential gas demand for the next year by purchasing renewable natural gas attributes (similar to carbon credits), all at no cost to customers. By purchasing environmental attributes that come from the RNG that is produced at a landfill digester, Summit is deepening its commitment to a more sustainable energy future in Maine and using its purchase to raise awareness and encourage other utilities and customers to support renewable natural gas.
Giving Customers a Renewable Choice
Today, the company filed a tariff with the Public Utilities Commission asking for the creation of a voluntary renewable program for customers that allows them to help fund the purchase of RNG attributes to further reduce their carbon footprint. Once the tariff is approved by the PUC, customers will be able to enroll in the program and elect to match a portion of their usage with RNG attributes as an additional flat, monthly fee on their bill based upon the RNG attribute price and the customer’s choice of the amount of usage they would like to match.
What People are Saying About the Renewable Gas Program:
“It is exciting to see Summit and the dairy industry partnering together on this innovative technology that will reduce waste creating an important energy resource to heat homes and power industry throughout Maine. While the project is in the early stages, it is encouraging to see this announcement as we work to build a sustainable energy future.” – Dan Burgess, Director, Governor’s Energy Office
"As an organic farmer, I know farmers are key to fighting climate change and anaerobic digesters significantly cut greenhouse gases in the agricultural sector. I'm thrilled to see Summit working with farmers to provide renewable energy solutions while also helping to fight climate change. This project shows that Maine is committed to reducing waste and emissions alongside our state's dairy industry, and will create good, green jobs along the way." – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
“Sustainable energy presents a huge opportunity for Maine to lower costs for consumers and businesses and address climate change. Innovative projects like this digester in Clinton can help support jobs in Maine, provide affordable heat and power to our homes, and help our state lead the way in sustainability.” – Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02)
“They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That’s particularly true with this project. Where most people saw waste from the dairy industry, Summit saw an opportunity to generate a truly home-grown energy source that has the potential to benefit Maine’s environment, our economy and our dairy industry. I look forward to learning more about the project and seeing how it progresses.” – Senate President Troy Jackson
“We need companies like Summit to continue to make these investments in Maine—particularly in rural parts of our State. We can drive economic growth, and at the same time, meet our energy demands in a more sustainable way that helps us address global climate change. Projects like this will go a long way in helping us achieve those goals.” – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon
“This investment has the potential to be a tremendous benefit for the area. By partnering with one of Maine’s greatest assets, our dairy industry, Summit is creating clean, renewable energy jobs and boosting the economy of this rural Maine community. I look forward to watching as this project progresses.” – House District 106 State Representative Scott Strom (R – Pittsfield)
“This is the type of out of the box project that will take Maine to the next level. It’s striking the perfect balance and partnership between traditional industry and innovative new technology that will create jobs, strengthen the economy and build a clean, renewable energy future.” – Barry Hobbins, Maine Public Advocate
“In addition to producing quality milk for Maine people, this project extends the benefits of these multi-generational family farms in the Clinton area to the production of clean renewable energy.” – Julie-Marie Bickford, Maine Dairy Industry Association
“Maine Farm Bureau is very excited by the partnership between Summit Natural Gas and several farms in Kennebec County. This project is an important endeavor that will provide an opportunity for farms to diversify, which is critical to the future viability of Maine’s agriculture.” – Julie Ann Smith, Executive Director, Maine Farm Bureau
“Sustainability, innovation, and community have long been pillars of the dairy industry. It is exciting to see them all shining in this collaborative project that stands to leave a lasting impact on the future of Maine.” – Sarah Littlefield, Executive Director, Maine Dairy Promotion Board
“Congratulations to Summit and Maine’s dairy industry on this exciting project. By investing in the development of Renewable Natural Gas, they are providing benefits to Maine in the form of energy, the economy and clean, renewable jobs.” – Dana Connors, President, Maine State Chamber of Commerce