Collaboration between transport and renewable energy sectors is vital to achieve Paris goals: says new report

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Figure 1.1:  Renewable energy makes up a very small proportion of energy consumption by the transport sector.
Figure 1.1: Renewable energy makes up a very small proportion of energy consumption by the transport sector.
Figure 1.2:  Carbon emissions from the road transport sector are projected to grow rapidly.
Figure 1.2: Carbon emissions from the road transport sector are projected to grow rapidly.

Rapid and full collaboration between the transport and renewable energy sectors is the only way to accelerate technology uptake and targeted policy change; both of which are needed to fully decarbonise the transport sector, says a new report by REN21 supported by the FIA Foundation.

The report Renewable Energy Pathways in Road Transport points out five key pathways to limit the growing impact of transport, and especially that of road transport, on global greenhouse gas emissions. Energy demand for transport is growing faster than any other sector and, without further measures, road transport will represent some 70% of overall transport sector emissions by 2050. Transport still relies almost entirely on fossil fuels and uses by far the lowest share of renewables, lagging far behind developments in the power generation sector. In 2018, transport represented a quarter of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and 29% of total final energy consumption. Only 3.7% of consumption was met by renewable sources.

The report argues that renewable energy can help decarbonise this increasingly complex sector and achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement,

The transport and energy sectors are tightly interlinked. Effective measures require both sectors to align their strategies and work together. The use of renewables in road transport depends on the rapid decarbonisation of the electricity sector, complemented with advanced biofuels, particularly for use in heavy-duty trucks. Renewable energy solutions for the road transport sector also need to be part of broader solutions to reduce transport demand by promoting non-motorised transport.

Each of the five pathways identified require cross-sectoral collaboration:

  1. Generate long-term roadmaps: Long-term, legal-binding, and aligned national decarbonisation targets need to be developed for all sectors to spur innovation and long-term investments. This includes building in accountability across the transport sector, embracing a ‘well-to-cradle’ approach.
  2. Enhance collaboration: The energy and transport sectors need to engage with each other with a combination of state and non-state actors at all levels need through institutionalised frameworks.
  3. Tailor-make policies: Uncoordinated or inconsistent policy instruments within and across sectors can result in counter-productive activities. Integrated strategies framed around electric mobility to reduce energy demand and increase renewable energy use are vital.
  4. Exchange information: Both sectors can learn from the successes and challenges which they have each faced. For example, the renewable energy sector has built some positive narratives, whilst in road transport alternative fuel vehicles are gaining market share.
  5. Develop relevant tools: A toolset to identify solutions to build a renewable energy economy and low-carbon vehicles market, in turn helping policy-makers design effective regulatory and policy frameworks.

"Renewable energy uptake is increasing but not at the pace needed, and especially not in the transport sector, “ says Rana Adib, Executive Director of REN21. “We are deluding ourselves if we think that we can decarbonise the energy sector without understanding the drivers in the transport sector, and especially those in the road transport sector.”

Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, said: “Our climate is in crisis, and it has never been more important that we all work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This report brings clarity and insight to the current state of play for the transport and renewable energy sectors, which do not have the strongest record of cooperation, and maps a way forward to help achieve the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Nicholas Wagner, Programme Officer - Renewable Energy Roadmaps at International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said: "From a technology standpoint, we should focus on the synergies between renewable power and transport – EVs are the obvious and key technology, but also the production of green hydrogen for modes such as shipping and aviation. It is important governments align climate policy and energy policy and take a holistic view of the energy system because the old view of looking at sectors such as transport and power as separate and distant, will no longer be the case in a transformed transport sector of the future."

Pierpaolo Cazzola, energy, technology and environmental sustainability advisor, International Transport Forum, added: “There is still a lot of work to be done to bring both the transport and energy sectors together to ensure that transport electrification is an asset rather than a liability for the integration of variable renewables in the electricity system. This is accompanied by a lack of clarity on what could be the best way to address potential issues and which institution could be best placed to take the lead in terms of policy action.”

“It’s unlikely that transport alone will develop charging infrastructure that is renewable-friendly without input from the renewable energy community and the electricity community. It’s also unlikely that the renewable electricity community will think about what has to happen in terms of charging infrastructure for EVs in a way that is compelling for people on the transport side.”