CO2 standards should support deployment of renewable energy in transport independently of the technology used
- The Life Cycle Assessment is the only means to ensure that CO2 emissions in the transport sector are accurately and comprehensively quantified.
- Compliance assessments for vehicle manufacturers should consider the contribution of biomethane to emissions reduction.
- Legislation should introduce a binding obligation to increase the share of sustainably produced biofuels and renewable gases in transport.
The European biomethane industry has launched today in the framework of the EU Green Week 2021 the paper ‘Smart CO2 standards for negative emissions mobility’, which includes three key recommendations to ensure the deployment of biomethane in transport and consequently achieve a fast, cost effective shift to carbon neutral mobility in Europe by 2050.
Emissions from transport will need to be reduced by 90% relative to 1990. According to the current trends, the transport sector will fail to contribute to the reduction in emissions required to meet EU targets. To ensure the full decarbonisation of the transport sector, Europe needs to couple electrification with the deployment of all alternative fuels and technologies.
The biomethane industry welcomes the gradual replacement of fossil fuels in the transport sector, but the replacement of these fuels should not penalise the technology they use. Internal combustion engines (ICE) are compatible with renewable fuels, including biomethane. Just as renewable electricity is compatible with the same batteries that are now mostly powered by electricity from fossil origin.
The current standards have adopted an approach to measure the emissions performance of the vehicles that considers only the CO2 emissions produced by the use of the vehicles (Tank-to-Wheel), instead of considering the emissions produced across its whole lifecycle. This penalises the deployment of ICE. However, this technology is already more performant when used with fossil gas than diesel or gasoline alternatives, and high performing when used with biomethane (bio-CNG or bio-LNG).
The environmental performance of biomethane over its complete lifecycle is excellent and has been scientifically proved in different studies, as demonstrated in this paper. Biomethane vehicles can reach even negative emission levels depending on the feedstock and technology used, but this is not recognised by the current regulation.
The updating of the CO2 emission performance standards together with other legal frameworks (e.g. RED III or DAFI) must set out a harmonised approach that enables genuinely carbon neutral and cost-effective solutions to reduce CO2 emissions in transport. Eventually, this should lead to the adoption of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach in EU vehicle legislation.
Manufacturing and recycling can represent anything from one fourth to one half of the total vehicle emissions, but are entirely omitted from the current standards. Life Cycle Assessment is the only means to ensure that CO2 emissions in the transport sector are accurately and comprehensively quantified. Considering only tailpipe emissions leaves 93% (54 tonnes/58 tonnes) of transport sector carbon emissions out of the calculation.
The CO2 emission standards should also include a new mechanism ensuring that compliance assessments for vehicle manufacturers consider the contribution of biomethane to emissions reduction. This mechanism could take the form of a crediting system or a carbon correction factor (CCF) as a function of the renewable fuel used. If a new mechanism cannot be implemented by 2025 at the latest, then the most efficient gas vehicles should be acknowledged as low emission vehicles within the current system.
The decarbonisation of transport could also be encouraged with a binding obligation for the EU to steadily increase the share of sustainably produced biofuels and renewable gases in transport, reaching 50% in ICE and hybrid vehicles by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
The sustainable production of biomethane for the coming years is large. There is a consensus that by 2030, the biogas and biomethane sectors combined can almost double their production and by 2050, production can more than quadruple. This is equivalent to 100 million passenger vehicles or 2.5 to 5 million heavy duty vehicles (HDV), depending on the type of HDV considered.
The benefits of the use of biomethane for clean mobility go far beyond the transport sector. Biomethane is at the heart of an efficient circular economy: it is the best way to recycle organic waste, produce valuable renewable gas and biofertilisers, promote sustainable and efficient farming practices and create jobs in rural areas. The potential of biogas and biomethane was also pointed out in the recent Farm-to-Fork and Methane strategies of the European Commission.
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