Quick decarbonisation of transport is possible and we can’t afford to miss that train
In the race towards decarbonisation, the transport sector has become the priority number one. Transport is the only sector in which the emissions have only raised since 2014 due to a growing demand in passenger and freight transport even though electric vehicles are being increasingly used. This sector represents one third of Europe’s overall CO2 emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in urban areas. Road transport alone is responsible for 70% of these emissions.
The urgent need for decarbonisation of the transport sector has taken the EU to set a goal of 60% emissions reductions in transport by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Meaningful transport sector decarbonisation is required throughout the next decade to reach that target and comply with the Paris Agreement obligations at global level.
All technologies will need to play a role in the transition to carbon-neutrality, especially in the transport sector. The deployment of electric vehicles and related infrastructure is crucial but will not be enough to decarbonise transport in a fast and cost-effective way. The European Commission is working on a new transport strategy and the Director General for Transport, Henrik Hololei, has already stressed the need for all alternative fuels, including biomethane, to lower emissions.
Boosting renewable gas deployment in transport
The advantages of renewable gas are backed by a significant scale-up potential. A recent study from CERRE estimates the EU could produce 124 bcm renewable gas. In transport, this potential can be tapped with already available technologies: light vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines are ready for the switch to renewable gases. The manufacturing of gas engines provides currently more GHG reductions than diesel or petrol alternatives. The immediate deployment of renewable gas vehicles could be ensured with additional measures, such as support for retrofitting of diesel and standard fuel engines. The promotion of blending obligations for renewable gases could also help speed-up the transition to low-carbon fuels, coupled with a significant increase of filling stations and availability of alternative fuels like (bio-)CNG and (bio-)LNG.
Additional environmental benefits
The use of renewable gases has additional environmental benefits. Apart from the substantial improvement of air quality by lowering NOx emissions and particulate matter, renewable gas provides a bridge to a circular economy, one of the top priorities of the European Green Deal. Biomethane can help cities and municipalities establish a local and circular bio-economy. Besides, it can make European agriculture greener and more resource-efficient, helping it to find alternative uses for organic residues and lowering GHG emissions, while replacing the use of fossil fuels on farms and providing diversified income for farmers. This production process provides the lowest greenhouse gas emissions when measuring lifecycle emissions of vehicles and fuels compared to any currently known energy source in the automotive industry.
The EBA is fully committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Earlier this year, EBA joined forces with the Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA Europe) and the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) calling for an acceleration on the deployment of renewable gas infrastructure. The association is now carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the measures that the EU is planning to put in place to make the transport sector more sustainable. We have recently launched an in-depth study on the state of play of biomethane in Europe. “Biomethane can be easily scaled-up and can play an important role in the needed fast decarbonisation of transport. We are calling for recognition of this opportunity and a level playing field of all available technologies that will allow for a balanced transition of the transport sector” explains Harmen Dekker, recently appointed Director of the EBA.
Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Power Trains in the European Context – Report, Version 3c, European Commission Joint Research Center, 2011