Energy Vision, a non-profit research institute which studies and promotes strategies to reduce waste, advance adoption of renewable fuels, and tackle climate change held its annual awards event in Manhattan, where it presented EV Leadership Awards to the following organizations:

  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with its partners National Grid and Waste Management, which together developed a groundbreaking project at DEP’s Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn. The project recycles food waste and converts methane gases from Newtown Creek’s operations into clean, carbon-free fuel.
  • Green Era, which is developing an urban farming campus using inedible food wastes to generate renewable energy and high-quality compost in an environmental justice neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side; and
  • Nature Energy, a global leader in biomethane production. It collects organic wastes from businesses and farms to produce renewable fuel and generate vital income for farmers. Based in Denmark, the company is expanding its operations from dominance in Europe to new projects in the US and Canada

Methane is a powerful climate pollutant that accounts for a third of modern global warming. When organic wastes – inedible food, manure, wastewater, and more – are processed in specialized sealed tanks called anaerobic digesters, the methane produced as they decompose is captured instead of escaping into the air, then processed into carbon-free renewable natural gas (RNG). Organic wastes which would otherwise be discarded as garbage become valuable renewable energy feedstocks.

RNG lowers methane and overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across its lifecycle, including production, transport, and use, it has the lowest lifecycle GHG emissions of any currently available fuel. When made from food wastes or manures RNG is net carbon-negative, meaning more GHG emissions are trapped by making it than are emitted by burning it as fuel. RNG can replace fossil natural gas for cooking and heating, for generating electricity, and for powering heavy-duty vehicles. Used in transportation, it displaces diesel fuel, eliminating diesel’s high-carbon emissions and preventing its health-damaging nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.

EV Leadership Award to NYC DEP, National Grid, and Waste Management

New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) built and operates the iconic egg-shaped anaerobic digesters at Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City’s largest wastewater treatment plant. These digesters now will now be able to process 300 million gallons of wastewater and up to 500 tons of food scraps a day, turning their methane biogases into RNG.

Angela DeLillo, Acting Deputy Commissioner of DEP’s Bureau of Wastewater Treatment accepted the Energy Vision award. “Newtown Creek’s digester project is visionary in reimagining relationships, reclaiming waste products and converting them to green, renewable energy,” she said. “It represents a tight circular economy, and makes efficient use of our existing infrastructure.”

National Grid partnered with DEP to build and operate a biogas conditioning system at the facility, refining the biogas in Newtown Creek’s digesters to pipeline-quality standards so it can be injected into National Grid’s natural gas distribution system and used to heat over 5,000 Brooklyn homes.

“The RNG produced at Newtown Creek can help meet climate goals in New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act while insuring affordable, reliable energy for New Yorkers to heat their homes and power their businesses,” said Clara Giustino, National Grid VP of Capital Delivery and Project Management, as she accepted the award. “It will play an important role in decarbonizing New York City’s heating system, even in buildings that are difficult or impossible to electrify. We look forward to building a clean energy future that leaves no one behind.”

Waste Management, America’s leading provider of comprehensive waste removal services, uses its expertise in organic waste collection in New York City to supply Newtown Creek with food waste, diverting it from landfills and making it into a valuable renewable energy feedstock. WM’s COReTM organics recycling plant on Varick Avenue in Brooklyn processes up to 250 tons of food waste each day into an engineered bioslurry or EBS®. That material gets delivered to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility and injected into its anaerobic digester to increase RNG production.

“We’d like to congratulate the New York City Department of Environmental Protection on reaching this milestone,” said WM Greater Mid-Atlantic Area Vice President Chris Farley. “This collaboration and this project are using food waste and renewable energy to offset the use of fossil fuels. This is an incredible accomplishment for the city, the climate and our business.” Mr. Farley thanked the project’s many collaborators and supporters, including NYC DEP, the New York City Council and Department of Sanitation, and the CORe plant’s operations team and customers.

According to Energy Vision’s research, if the Newtown Creek model were implemented at New York City’s other wastewater treatment plants, it could recycle a large portion of the City’s food waste and produce enough RNG locally to replace nearly all the diesel currently used to power NYC’s municipal vehicle fleets, thereby avoiding the climate and health impacts of their exhaust.

EV Leadership Award to Green Era

Another urban renewable natural gas (RNG) project is on the South Side of Chicago, where the company Green Era Sustainability LLC is developing an anaerobic digester facility and urban farming campus — the first community-based energy project of its kind. In partnership with other community groups, including the Black- and women-led Urban Growers Collective, the Green Era Campus, a nine-acre, formerly vacant brownfield, will be a clean energy facility, urban farm oasis, and economic empowerment engine. The Green Era Campus will enhance the historically polluted and underserved Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. The new digester will recycle food waste to produce RNG and high- quality compost and fertilizer for Chicago’s urban farms, supporting local food production and sustainable, equitable development.

“After supply chain disruptions from COVID and the war in Ukraine, organizations and communities are eager for solutions to be more self-sufficient,” said Jason Feldman, CEO of Green Era Sustainability LLC. “Recycling food waste with closed-loop digester systems like Green Era’s is an easy, cost-effective alternative to landfilling organic waste, which helps the environment, organizations meet zero-waste recycling goals and benefits the community. The Green Era campus will lift the South Side of Chicago as a blueprint for the nation in developing an equitable green economy and sustainable future for all.

EV Leadership Award to Nature Energy

Based in Denmark, Nature Energy is a global renewable energy leader. Once a small municipal gas utility, it left the fossil gas business behind to become the largest producer of biomethane by a factor of two. It has 12 industrial size anaerobic digester facilities in Europe, and a robust pipeline of new projects under development in five countries, including the US and Canada. Ambassador Berit Basse, currently the Danish Consul General in New York, was on hand to help celebrate the award.

“We are leading the biogas 2.0 movement,” said Steen Parsholt, Vice Chairman of Nature Energy, who accepted it. “We pioneered a viable, standardized large-scale commercial model for the industry to expand production of biogas using primarily waste from businesses and farms instead of food or energy crops. We’re excited about this prestigious Energy Vision award. We’re also excited about the US Inflation Reduction Act whose production tax credits and new incentives for carbon sequestration will strongly support capital investment in anaerobic digester projects. With the new policies and the solutions we have developed, we expect to expand biomethane production by nine times in the next five years.”

“Energy Vision began focusing public attention on the organic waste-to-fuel strategy in 2009. Today over 250 plants in the U.S are producing RNG fuel, and 90,000 trucks and buses are running on it,” said Energy Vision president Matt Tomich. “This is astonishing growth for a such a young industry, which has already created 10,000 jobs. However, RNG’s growth has only just begun.”

“Six million people a year die from air pollution, and the impacts of climate change — floods, wildfires, melting polar ice masses, and more — are visible to all of us ,” said Energy Vision’s founder Joanna Underwood. “But the global flow of 1.3 billion tons a year of organic waste can do a lot to address these threats if we capture and use their methane biogases to produce clean renewable energy.”

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