Alternative fuels for road transport

Date: 28, November 2016
In the aftermath of the Paris Agreement and the «Effort Sharing 2021-2030» proposal, which the European Commission (EC) presented July 20 2016, various stakeholders, such as environment organizations and companies are exploring the potential of shifting from the traditional fossil fuel to new alternative fuels in the transport sector as part of decarbonisation. The Governments will need to develop strategies to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by an average of 30% in 2030 – up to 40% in the Nordic countries. Shifting to alternative fuels can help Europe to meet the reduction of emission target for 2030. When exploring the options for alternative fuels it is important that it is sustainable and a long time solution.

Alternative fuels

One example of these efforts is a project called Biofrontiers, which has the last year set out to shed light on the challenges we are facing today, by bringing stakeholders from industry and civil society together to explore conditions and boundaries under which alternative fuels might be developed in a sustainable manner.

Alternative fuels can be biofuels from waste from households, forestry and agriculture, and renewable energy transformed into liquid fuel, for example wind and sun energy. Advanced biofuels from waste and residues have low carbon emissions compared to today’s fossil alternative and todays first generation biofuels. A real-life test of the advanced biofuel HVO by the Norwegian Road Hauliers association confirmed this. 82 tons of CO2 was removed on annual basis from each lorry that took part of the test in 2016.

Recent studies done by the European Commission with GLOBIOM model and previous work by International Food Policy Research Institute has shown that carbon intensity of biodiesel from corps as palm oil, soy oil, rapeseed oil are close to the fossil diesel or considerably higher. It is therefore necessary to find new alternatives that are not produced on these types of oil. The Committee of Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament has called on the European Commission to push for the use of palm oil as component of biodiesel to be phased out by 2020 at the latest. In 2014 45% of the palm oil imported to Europe was used as fuel for transport.

According to Biofrontiers we can potentially reduce emission much better, by ensuring that wastes such as from unused food from restaurants and canteens is converted into liquid fuels and displacing the combustion of fossil fuel while avoiding the methane emissions. Renewable power-to-liquid technology will allow to transform excess renewable energy power generation into storable transport fuel.

For achieving this the industry and researcher needs help from the policy makers. The policy makers will need to design a policy framework that mobilizes investments to deliver advanced fuels. One of today’s challenges is the low prices on diesel, this is a problem because it attracts the consumers and is difficult to compete with. Policy makers and the authorities should therefore put in place a framework that is robust under conditions of both high and low oil prices to be able to deliver low-carbon liquids to the transport sector and support innovation and new technology. Biofrontiers also come with the recommendation to phase out biofuels that do not deliver on our climate goals, advanced alternative fuels should be prioritized and open up the markets for innovative ideas.

NLA is in favour of use of advanced bio-fuels, and will want to see that it is explored. To find solutions that are sustainable we will need innovation and new ideas and a supportive policy framework which makes it possible to explore new ideas. On the scoreboard for transport recently made by the Commission, the Nordic countries are high up on the list of use of alternative fuels in Europe. We need to build on this basis and continue to develop and expand the availability and use of bio-fuels.