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Executive Q&A With Viridi Energy President & COO Chet Benham

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Energy Global,

Viridi’s President and COO, Chet Benham, spoke with Energy Global about how the sector has matured in recent years, the growing reliance on RNG in meeting global energy demands, and what’s next for RNG as part of the broader energy transition.

Energy Global: Can you give us an insight on where Viridi Energy sits in the energy space?

Chet Benham:Viridi Energy builds, owns, and operates RNG waste-to-value projects. In the simplest explanation, we turn waste from landfill, dairy, wastewater, and food waste sources into renewable energy that is used to power local communities.

We are fortunate that many of our team members, from our executives to our operators, have played a major role in bringing RNG into the mainstream over the last two decades. This experience, along with the backing of Warburg Pincus and Green Rock Energy Partners, has provided the momentum to allow us to continue to identify and invest in high-value RNG infrastructure in geographies across North America.

Energy Global: What are some of the benefits of RNG as a substitute for traditional fossil fuel-based alternatives?

Chet Benham: RNG can be used for anything natural gas is used for – from vehicle fuel to electricity – but it has a significantly lower carbon intensity, which leads to emissions reductions across the entire energy value chain.

RNG is considered a ‘drop-in fuel’ because it can be integrated seamlessly into current natural gas infrastructure. This means everyone currently utilising natural gas, whether that be consumers, businesses, or utilities, can use existing equipment because the RNG molecules act the same as natural gas molecules.

Additionally, RNG is storable and can be combined with other power generation resources, like wind and solar, so it is a natural complement to intermittent renewable energy sources.

Here’s another crucial reason to invest in RNG that’s often overlooked: Solid waste is expected to grow nearly 70% by 2050 – RNG is the near-term solution to address this growing problem and convert the waste for clean, productive everyday use.

RNG has the potential to amount to about 10% of global natural gas use, and if you think about that 10%, it is a very meaningful number in promoting the acceleration of more sustainable fuels.

To effectively address environmental challenges now and in the future, we need a diverse portfolio of solutions that can work together. And we think RNG is a big component of that.

Energy Global: You referenced Viridi’s connection to the early days of RNG. How have you seen the waste-to-RNG space mature since then to where we are today?

Chet Benham: The RNG space is evolving – and maturing. It used to be ‘two guys in a pick-up truck’ trying to strike while the iron was hot. Unfortunately, this unsophisticated approach produced less-than-stellar results for a lot of companies and their investors.

Over time, the industry has come to realise there is no substitute for experience and operational know-how. It is now about being able to showcase a commitment to safety, reliability, and a low cost of capital as the industry has become more sophisticated.

Operators that are combining high-level engineering with expertise at the local level are the ones that are really moving the industry forward in meeting demand – that’s why we at Viridi operate with these core values on a project-by-project basis.

Energy Global: What do you envision is the next chapter of RNG?

Chet Benham: I think the industry is in a period of measured growth. The reason for this escalating demand is twofold: New clean fuel standards and favorable regulation like the Inflation Reduction Act are making a clear business case for RNG integration. But, I think we are also seeing shifting expectations from both consumers and businesses as it pertains to environmental responsibility that has brought stakeholders to the table.

Today, the appetite for RNG is substantial. Buyers range from utilities incorporating RNG into their natural gas supply, large industrials replacing natural gas with RNG to help hit their sustainability targets, commercial businesses of all varieties utilising RNG to power their operations, and transportation companies swapping out carbon-based fuels with RNG to significantly lower the emissions of their fleets. Whereas, before, RNG was kind of an unknown commodity, its universal practicality is better understood today, which has broadened its acceptance.

As renewables markets have expanded, we are seeing an appetite for waste-to-energy leaders who are demonstrating steady results, building scalable operations, and producing robust volumes. This approach results in projects that aren’t just good for people and the planet – but those that produce attractive and reliable returns on investment that make a clear business case for RNG.

For more information on Viridi Energy please click here.

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