Vermont makes strides with first gallons of renewable propane

August 8, 2022 By    

When Judy Taranovich, owner of Proctor Gas in Proctor, Vermont, learned renewable propane was arriving to a rail terminal just 16 miles from her storage facility, she set up a meeting with the wholesale supplier, Ray Energy, in April.

Proctor Gas now powers one of its bobtails with renewable propane. (Photo by Proctor Gas staff)

Proctor Gas now powers one of its bobtails with renewable propane. (Photo by Proctor Gas staff)

By June, Proctor Gas welcomed Vermont’s first load of renewable propane and held an educational event to mark the achievement. More than 50 people – including propane industry leaders, city officials, a representative of Vermont Clean Cities and more than a dozen politicians – attended the event.

Taranovich says some of the politicians in attendance had voted for Vermont’s Clean Heat Standard, a bill that would’ve reduced the use of fossil fuels in buildings had Gov. Phil Scott not vetoed it.

Challenging the grid

While Taranovich arranged a supply of renewable propane within months, her arrival at this milestone has been years in the making. She’s worked with Leslie Anderson, president and CEO of the Propane Gas Association of New England (PGANE), for about five years to raise propane’s voice in an increasingly embattled energy debate.

“From the association side, having a member like Judy at Proctor Gas step up and introduce the first load into Vermont and make it such a big media event is a great kickoff to getting it into our region where we’re going to need it probably sooner than other parts of the country,” says Anderson.

Vermont boasts the cleanest electric grid of any state due to its use of hydropower from Canada, frustrating propane’s ability to compete with electrification in the state.

The arrival of renewable propane, however, allows the industry to map out a future where propane is cleaner than even Vermont’s electric grid. According to a fact sheet from the Propane Education & Research Council, a blend of 30 percent conventional propane, 50 percent renewable propane and 20 percent renewable dimethyl ether can lower propane’s carbon intensity in Vermont to 0 g/MJ by 2030, with room to achieve a negative carbon intensity by 2050.

Anderson plans to illustrate these possible futures when she testifies during Vermont’s next lawmaking session.

“The fact that somebody in Vermont has already brought in a load of [renewable propane], and it’s in the state, is going to add credibility to that because [policymakers] are going to ask ‘How soon is it coming?’ Well, it’s coming. It’s here,” explains Anderson.

Customer interest

Photo: Proctor Gas staff

Judy Taranovich and Jim Blake celebrate renewable propane in a 1932 Ford Roadster powered by the fuel. (Photo: Proctor Gas staff)

Proctor Gas’ first load of renewable propane was designated for autogas applications, so the company filled its propane-powered bobtail and even a 1932 Ford Roadster that PGANE Chairman Jim Blake converted to propane.

Proctor Gas did not face any regulatory barriers to adoption, explains Anderson, because renewable propane is chemically identical to conventional propane and is a drop-in solution.

Since the event, says Taranovich, a few residential customers have called to ask about renewable propane. It’s an opportunity she’d like to pursue in the future, and one she believes would positively impact her community. She wants customers to know that propane will remain a clean, affordable, viable source of energy in the future and defend them against forced electrification.

“For Mrs. Smith who’s on a fixed income, she’s just not going to have the money to do this. And that’s one of my biggest concerns,” says Taranovich. “I feel a bit like a Robinhood here. I think there’s just such an injustice happening to the most vulnerable in Vermont, and they don’t even know it’s coming.”

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