The role of renewable transport fuels in decarbonizing road transport

IEA Bioenergy & IEA Advanced Motor Fuels

In the light of climate change, there is an urgent need to decarbonize our societies. The road transport sector is specifically challenging, as transport demand is growing, and so are the sector ́s GHG emissions. Electric mobility powered by renewable power will not be able to solve this on its own, and renewable transport fuels will be needed to bridge the gap between GHG emission reduction targets and the prospected actual emissions.

This is the main conclusion from the report by IEA Energy and IEA Advanced Motor Fuels (AMF) Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP). The core objective of this project was the assessment of the possible evolution of road transport sectors within five individual countries (Finland, Sweden, Germany, USA and Brazil). The different transport sectors were researched using data and knowledge provided by country experts.

The summary report is build on the findings on four specific topics, each presented in a separate report:

  1. Key strategies in selected countries
  2. Scenarios and contributions in selected countries
  3. Production technologies and costs
  4. Deployment barriers and policy recommendations

The report starts with showing the key strategies and ambitions of each country versus the current trends of their respective transport sector (Part 1 &2). Within these segments, an introduction of each countries road transport and energy consumption is given, followed by the decarbonization potential of current policies, the scenario of introducing more electric vehicles and the scenario’s of using biofuels and e-fuels to fully decarbonize the road transport sector.

These segments conclude that countries which deploy a set of different measures such as reducing transport demand, improving vehicle efficiency, and adding renewable energy carriers such as biofuels, e-fuels, renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen have the best chances to meet ambitious decarbonization goals.

These segments also show that biofuels contribute most to decarbonization now and up to 2030, 2040, or even 2050, depending on the country. In Germany and in the USA, efficiency gains become the main contributor after 2030, and in Finland and Sweden the impact of biofuels remains largest until around 2040 when the use of electric vehicles takes over. In Brazil, biofuels remain the largest contributor until 2050.

As the report promotes deploying a multitude of renewable transport fuels instead of focusing purely on electric mobility it also strives to give more insights into the current availability of them (Part 3). Specifically, by looking at their development status, feedstock costs, possible future cost reductions, compatibility with excising engines and the role of policy on the production and use of emerging biofuels for each of the five target countries.

The last segment of the report focusses more on how to reach widespread deployment of renewable fuels and policy recommendations (part 4). The report identifies 6 main barriers to widespread deployment, which they explain in more detail:

  • A well-established transport system to compete with
  • Fluctuating policy drivers
  • Public perception
  • An incomplete set of policy measures
  • Infrastructure requirements
  • Risks associated with the take-up of low-carbon fuels

The report ends by implementing the main conclusion shown above in a policy best practice, showing already effective existing policies on the deployment of biofuels, and some further suggestions provided by participating industry representatives.

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