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LowCVP reports indicate pathways for meeting renewable energy targets in transportation, decarbonizing fuel to 2030 and beyond

Illustrative impact of the fuel roadmap. Source: LowCVP, Element Energy. Click to enlarge.

The UK’s LowCVP has published twin reports which set out how the UK could meet its 2020 targets defined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, and proceed on a pathway to decarbonize road transport fuel in the period to 2030 and beyond.

The LowCVP—the stakeholder body which brings government, industry and other stakeholders together to focus on the challenges of decarbonizing road transport—commissioned energy consultancy Element Energy to analyze the UK’s options for meeting the Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED) 2020 transport target which states that at least 10% of the final energy consumption in transport must come from renewable sources. This and the parallel Fuels Roadmap report benefitted from wide industry consultation and explicitly set out to align with existing powertrain roadmaps (including those published by the Automotive Council and the LowCVP).

RED Scenarios. In the first report, the researchers investigated four strategies to reach the 10% target through a model able to simulate different levels of uptake of various fuels and energy vectors. Model inputs were validated by an industry stakeholder consultation. The four investigated strategies were:

  • No New Blends: no blends higher than E10 and B7, and relying on double counting fuels

  • Depot Focus: E10, B7 and high biodiesel blends for trucks and buses refueling at depots

  • New Forecourt Blends: bring higher blends to the forecourts (E20 and/or B10 and/or E85)

  • Combination: new higher blends at both depots and forecourts

In all cases, the analysts concluded that the implied uptake of new blends/vehicles and/or supply of double counting suggested an ambitious implementation program and that incentives will be necessary. Industry consultees highlighted the risk of such a support framework not being developed in time to meet the 2020 target. The authors also concluded that in all cases, the supply of double counting fuels (FAME/HVO from waste oils, Ethanol 2G, Biomass To Liquid diesel) is critical.

They found that adopting a majority combination of 10% ethanol in gasoline (E10) and 7% biodiesel in diesel (B7) was the most pragmatic way of achieving the target with the vehicles and infrastructure available over the next five years. To achieve this objective, however, would require full uptake by consumers and operators of E10 and B7 and that a significant volume of double counting blendable RED compliant material were available to the market.

The study proposes maximizing the use of fuels which count double towards the target—primarily, currently, used cooking oil (UCO), and fuels from other waste material, which will be needed as a feedstock for B7 biodiesel in order to both achieve the target and reduce the risk of unintended consequences such as indirect land-use change (ILUC). However, this approach is not without its challenges; maximizing the use of UCO and waste sources requires close scrutiny to ensure fuel quality and vehicle operability are maintained under all conditions.

The analysis shows that vehicles powered by renewable electricity are unlikely to make sufficient inroads in the time available to meet the 2020 target even with proposed multiple counting of the EV contribution. However, it says that encouraging the deployment of electric and biomethane vehicles, together with the increasing range of niche options available is key to helping alleviate the risks of reliance on E10 and B7 to meet the target.

The report also says that encouragement of the development and deployment of advanced and drop-in fuels as early as possible will also help alleviate short term reliance on E10 and B7 made from food crops. Advanced fuels include hydro treated vegetable oil (HVO), biomass to liquid (BTL) and ethanol made from waste or lignocellulosic material (E2G).

Fuels Roadmap. The Fuels Roadmap, the second of the twin studies, strives for consistency with the 2020 RED scenario analysis above, as well as with the AutoCouncil and LowCVP powertrain roadmaps and supply constraints for renewable fuels.

The report concludes that the decade from 2020 is when electrification of vehicles (including plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and/or fuel cell vehicles) is likely to become a mainstream offer, providing there are advances in electricity storage technology and assuming adequate grid capacity.

This growth must also be matched with reductions in the carbon intensity of the grid if transport, which currently accounts for about 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions, is to make a contribution to long term renewable energy and carbon reduction goals.

Between 2020 and 2030, the authors say that powertrain and fuels roadmaps have the potential to deliver around a 20% reduction in well-to-wheel (WTW) emissions.

Beyond 2020, the European Commission’s transport goals are also expected to begin driving the volume introduction of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). The report envisages, for example, CO2-free urban logistics by 2030 and the phasing out of conventionally fueled cars in cities before 2050.

In terms of commercial vehicles, the report says that efficiency gains will be an essential component of advances in the 2020-2030 timeframe with an increasing use of hybridized and some full electric (battery electric and fuel cell) powertrains for specific applications.

Otherwise, the report finds that there is sufficient sustainable ethanol to enable vehicles to move to a higher blend than E10 gasoline. This also brings potential for further efficiency gains if vehicle engines are manufactured to take advantage of potential, higher octane levels from higher ethanol content but this would require evaluation on a well-to-wheel basis to ensure the optimum approach across fuel production and use. This would need to be agreed as part of a new fuel specification for gasoline and is unlikely to be introduced until near 2030.

It also suggests that methane and biomethane will have a key role to play in road transport in the time horizon to 2030. This will require a robust strategy to ensure that the potential well-to-wheel emissions benefits are realized. The report also sees a role for LPG and the intriguing potential for bio-LPG.

Background. The publication of the reports follows closely on the EU’s move to provide greater clarity in policy direction for biofuels, resulting from a decision by EU Energy Ministers last Friday (13 June) to re-structure the nature of the targets in the EU Renewable Energy Directive following the European Commission’s proposals on indirect land use change. LowCVP noted that this decision should end many years of debilitating uncertainty for the UK biofuels industry and enable the fuels sector to re-engage in the effort to decarbonize road transport.

The UK’s long term climate strategy implies a virtual decarbonization of road transport by 2050. Cutting emissions through the full life cycle of fuels and energy supplied for transport is an important part of the challenge and requires clear long term policies from the UK to build on the most recent announcements from the EU.



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