Electro-mobility and alternative fuels central to ‘energy union’ agenda

Further decarbonisation of transport through a shift to alternative fuels and electro-mobility forms a major part of the European Commission’s strategy for an ‘energy union’, unveiled last week. With transport being responsible for more than 30% of EU energy consumption and a quarter of emissions, the Commission said legislation on ‘decarbonising the transport sector, including an action plan on alternative fuels’ would be put forward in 2017.

However, CO2 standards for trucks and buses contained in an earlier draft strategy were dropped in what T&E called a ‘disappointing concession to special interests’.

The proposed European energy union would aim to encourage ‘a gradual transformation of the entire transport system’ by developing better infrastructure, such as recharging stations, and promoting alternative fuels like electricity or liquefied natural gas to boost the sector’s energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.

Every year Europe spends around €300 billion on oil imports, most of it for use in transport which is the largest source of Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Mobility in Europe is mostly dependent on oil as more than 90% of all energy used in transport comes from hydrocarbons.

Road charging schemes based on the ‘user-pays’ principle, new emissions standards for cars and vans, and a revision of the taxation of heavy goods vehicles are also envisioned. Legislation to give effect to these measures is expected to be put forward throughout 2016 and 2017.

T&E director Jos Dings welcomed the Commission’s ‘good intentions’ on cleaner cars and the electrification of transport but lamented that its ‘shying away from an earlier commitment to introduce CO2 standards for trucks and buses is an entirely unwelcome concession to special interests.’

The Commission also used the occasion to detail its approach to the Paris climate talks later this year. It confirmed aviation and shipping will fall under its 2030 reduction commitments and gave the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) a deadline to regulate emissions by the end of 2016.

Bill Hemmings, T&E’s bunkers manager, commented: ‘Aviation and shipping account for around 8% of the current global warming problem and, with their emissions expected to grow by 250% by 2050, it is essential that these sectors are included in a global climate deal. At the same time the EU should not hold its breath – it’s clear that the energy union strategy requires new and additional domestic measures for these sectors now.’

The energy union strategy also mentions biofuels and biomass sustainability policy and, following last week’s vote on biofuels reform in the European Parliament, T&E said this should include indirect impacts of biofuels production and provide no further support for land-based biofuels.