Biogas from livestock operations that is used to generate power for electric vehicles could qualify for Renewable Fuel Standard credits for the first time under regulations proposed Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA issued a proposed RFS rule for 2023 through 2025 that would allow car manufacturers to register with the agency and generate eRINs, or electric Renewable Identification Numbers, for power produced from qualifying renewable biomass, including biogas from methane digesters. Manufacturers could start earning eRINs in 2024. 

"With this proposal, EPA seeks to provide consumers with more options while diversifying our nation’s energy mix," EPA administrator Michael Regan said.

Sources in the biofuel industry expected the agency to create a framework for including eRINs in the RFS program, since it aligns with the White House's goals to boost electric vehicle use. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told eRIN advocate Thomas Peters in May that the USDA and the EPA had been involved in discussions on eRIN implementation. 

A 2007 energy law made electricity from renewable biomass eligible under the RFS, but the EPA never created any formal rules or approved producer applications for such a program. The agency wrote in a 2016 proposed rule that it was struggling to determine who — the electricity producer, the utility distributing the electricity, the electric vehicle owner, the charging station or the manufacturer — would generate the credits.

The proposed rule would place the ability to generate credits in the hands of vehicle manufacturers. The EPA, however, noted in the proposal that it would allow the public to comment on other alternatives, including allowing renewable electricity producers, public access charging stations, independent third parties, or a combination of entities to generate credits.

Only electricity generated from a renewable biomass feedstock would qualify under the proposed regulations. Electricity from solar, wind and hydropower wouldn't.

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The EPA said in the proposed rule that some stakeholders want the agency to begin allowing eRINs next year, but the agency said participants in the program will need time to prepare to participate. Some of the more than 500 landfill-to-electricity projects and 200 digester-to-electricity projects currently in existence may even struggle to meet the Jan. 1, 2024, start date, since they would only have three to four months after the rule is finalized to conduct engineering reviews, submit registration submissions, and make contractual arrangements for eRIN generation, the agency said.

"The time and effort we anticipate it would take to conduct these reviews would be compounded by the fact that because the eRINs regulatory provisions would be new, the professional engineers themselves would not be acquainted with the new regulatory requirements, which would increase the amount of time for them to complete their reviews," the agency wrote.

The agency estimates 600 million RINs from renewable electricity would be produced in 2024 and 1.2 billion in 2025.

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, told reporters his group was still "digging into the details" on the eRIN portion of the proposal. 

"It is going to be very complex," Cooper said. "We're quite interested in how EPA proposes to do the RIN generation and accounting and validation. That's a much different supply chain than what EPA is used to when you think about other renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel."

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