July 31, 2018

Decarbonisation and the transport sector

The transport sector accounts for approximately one third of global energy demand and one-sixth of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). It is also the sector with the lowest penetration of renewable energy. As world transport energy use grows rapidly, it has a big impact on total fossil fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions. This presents a huge opportunity to make big GHG reductions.

Renewable energy policy in Europe achieved a new milestone this summer after negotiators from the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council set a binding target of 32% final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030 as well as a complete phase-out of palm oil use in transport by 2030. One key aspect of the agreement is a renewable target of 14% set for fuels used in road transport by 2030, with bonuses given for the use of renewable electricity in road and rail transport. This is important as the transport sector contributed 25.8 % of total EU-28 GHG emissions in 2015 (European Environment Agency 2017).

The use of biomethane in the transport sector is a viable option!

At the EU level, the share of energy from renewable sources in transport was 7.1% in 2016, compared with 6.6 % the year before and 1.4% in 2004 (Eurostat 2018). Concerning the use of renewable energy in transport, the most widely used energy sources are liquid biofuels, which are usually blended with fossil fuels.

The role of biomethane in transport is still very limited in most European countries, especially in relation to total fuel sales. Biomethane (via anaerobic digestion) is used for transportation in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and UK. Even though the recognition of biomethane has significantly increased in the EU during the past few years (mainly due to improved policies and legislations) there is limited positive public awareness for this option. This being the case it is essential to make the link between biogas production and biomethane in transport more visible to the public.

Biomethane can be produced sustainably anywhere in Europe. There is a growing amount of organic waste available and untapped resources of waste to be harvested. Biomethane can contribute to decarbonizing the transport sector of tomorrow. Integrating biomethane into the decarbonisation strategy of the transport sector is crucial to achieving Europe’s ambitious transport and GHG emissions targets.

Biomethane in transportation also contributes towards a circular economy. In addition to energy, anaerobic digestion produces a valuable digestate that substitutes the need to produce CO2 intensive mineral fertilizers.

Biomethane is a powerful weapon against climate change. We can choose between a growing problem and a growing solution.