Josey Centennial Professor of Energy Resources, University of Texas & Chief Science & Technology Officer, ENGIE

Michael Webber

Interviewer: David Spence, Interview date:  March 27, 2020


Renewable Natural Gas in a Decarbonized Energy Future

by Michael Webber

“Renewable natural gas is a form of methane that comes from renewable sources rather than fossil reservoirs. … We can make methane in a renewable, recurring way by for example decomposing organic sources … without oxygen present (anaerobically) to form methane.  We can also manufacture methane from extra electricity by cracking the hydrogen out of water vapor to make CH4, which is methane. … In this case you’re taking carbon out of the atmospheric reservoir … and dumping it in the same reservoir. That reduces your total life cycle carbon emissions.”

“You can electrify everything.  It’s just a matter of cost and reliability. … If your goal is to really get to zero carbon as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible, and in as robust a way as possible, keeping fuels as part of that mix is important. … The reliability problem shows up in different ways.  In electricity we have to overbuild to accommodate peak demand. … which is idled most of the time and therefore becomes very expensive. [There are also] technical issues associated with how [the all-electric] grid performs. … In our view, decarbonizing gas may be a relatively cheap way to go … Fuels are powerful storage mechanisms.”

“There’s a pressing need to solve climate change. … For me it’s more important for us to set [decarbonization] standards and goals for what we expect [and to require compliance]. … If you can comply, that’s great. … If you can’t, then you can’t participate.  But … if you are telling a lot of people that they can’t even be a part of that future, then they will fight that future.”


Michael Webber is is based in Paris, France where he serves as the Chief Science and Technology Officer at ENGIE, a global energy & infrastructure services company. Webber is also the Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas at Austin.

To learn more about Michael Webber, please visit his home page: HERE