How do we cut CO2 emissions in transport?

15 June 2017

To fight climate change, the EU Commission presented a new legislative package in November proposing that CO2 emissions are cut by at least 40% by the year 2030. In Finland, the focus is on reducing transport sector emissions by increasing the use of biofuels.

“The main pathways to decarbonizing transport are increasing the efficiency of the transport system, promoting low-emission alternative energy and gradually increasing the use of advanced biofuels,” explained Kyriakos Maniatis from the EU Commission’s Energy Technologies, Innovation & Clean Coal unit within the Directorate General for Energy during his conference presentation. Maniatis says that the EU transport sector accounts for about 25% of the EU’s overall emissions.

“The Commission aims to promote advanced biofuels in transport by honouring emission reduction and renewable fuel obligations, but also by increasing the usage of renewables in aviation and maritime transport.”

The EU countries have already agreed on a new binding renewable energy target of at least 27% of overall energy consumption in the EU by 2030. The EU legislative process is in the early stages within the EU institutions and it will take around two years before the final directive is enacted.

Aiming high with renewables

“For sectors outside the Emission Trading Scheme, the EU Commission has proposed a binding emission-cutting target as high as 39% for Finland by the year 2030,” confirms Director General Riku Huttunen from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Cutting emissions in the transport sector is the main way to achieve an overall reduction in emissions for Finland.

“In transport biofuels, our target is up to 30% of total fuel consumption. By increasing the use of biofuels alongside other measures, we could cut our transport CO2 emissions by half between 2005 and 2030,” he estimates.

Currently, Finland produces around 500,000 tonnes of advanced biofuels annually. This total should increase to 1.1 million tonnes by 2030, which will require investments of around EUR 1.5 billion.
Huttunen admits that in order to fill the gap there is a need for research and development, new innovations and breakthrough technologies.

“In Finland, we already have highly developed processes and world-class products in this sector. Even so, there is a technology and innovation risk in this development work, so we have an investment subsidy scheme that supports the commercialisation of new technologies and demonstration plants within the non-ETS scheme.”

According to the National Strategy, the annual sum of support for large investment projects in the energy field would be up to EUR 60 million over the next few years starting from 2019.

“The recent Commission proposal indicates that the EU transport biofuels policy will continue after 2020. We believe that our national strategy, together with the new EU legislation, will create a solid foundation and excellent investment opportunities for companies.”

From waste to fuels

The new EU legislation proposal is very much about the circular economy. The aim is to increase the use of side streams, biomass and waste for biofuels and energy.

Huttunen thinks that Finland could expand the use of forest biomass for producing biofuels by exploiting forest industry side streams more efficiently.

“From the industrial policy point of view, it is important that we extract as much added value as possible from our forest raw material.”

Finland’s forests grow faster that they are harvested. “The figure for sustainable roundwood harvesting could be to up to 80 million cubic metres annually. During the last ten-year period, the average removal volume has been 60 million cubic metres, so harvest levels could increase from current volumes,” Huttunen estimates.

Renewable energy production in Finland accounts for around 42% of final energy consumption, which is the third highest percentage in Europe. Altogether, the Finnish government aims to increase the figure to at least 50% by 2030.

“We are already heading in the right direction. The idea is to cut CO2 emissions and increase bioenergy production in the most cost-efficient way possible. In the case of the Finnish transport sector, this means increasing the use of biofuels,” he concludes.

Read more:

Reducing traffic emissions with biofuels

Cleaner marine shipping with UPM BioVerno

Boosting the biofuels industry

Vesa Puoskari

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