I’ve been a consultant on global fuels issues (e.g. fuel quality, biofuels, alternative fuels, low carbon fuels and vehicles) for more than 20 years now and am continuously watching the space evolve. It’s my job to keep on top of developments and trends, each tiny tea leaf at a time, then put them together to help clients make sound decisions for their businesses, people and the environment. That used to be quite a task when the Internet was nascent. Finding and verifying information and data was a giant task.
For example, I remember trying to call the ministry of energies in Latin American countries in the 1990s to obtain or verify fuel specifications for gasoline and diesel in very embarrassing and broken Spanish! I was analyzing trends in the region and the project took months to complete. Information just wasn’t easy to find and verify for accuracy. Even tracking down legislation and regulations in the U.S. (both federal and state) was no easy task. I spent so much time at the U.S. EPA docket when it was in Southeast Washington, D.C. in the 1990s that I actually got to know some of the folks working there!
But now we have the opposite problem ― there is information absolutely everywhere, all day 24/7, and it’s simply impossible to keep up with it all. I spend at least 25% of my work day right now just reading and digesting, and it’s probably not enough. Since my website is not up (yet, coming soon!) and we’re all drowning in information, my thought was to put a regular post together here of the top stories and developments of the week from where I sit with a little analysis behind it. I hope it’s useful to you all!
With so much great data and insightful analysis coming out of international organizations, I kind of wonder what the future of large consultancies are, and this report is a perfect example. In any event, with contributions and input from 180 experts around the world, the annual report provides the state of play in the renewables space, covering the power, heating and cooling and transport sectors as well as energy efficiency, investment flows and the global policy landscape. With respect to the transport space, the report notes the following:
Launched in 2010 following the “gloomy” conclusion of the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, the Clean Energy Ministerial provided a forum where countries unable to work together effectively under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) could join forces on topics of shared interest in the clean energy space. And it has been a change driver for increasing country and corporate clean energy commitments, with more than $1.5 billion committed during this week’s meeting alone.
However, the interesting thing is that the focus has mainly been on energy efficiency and renewables (in fact, REN 21 launched its annual report during the meetings). Its transport-related initiatives focus only on electric vehicles, and there was a call for focusing on autonomous driving by one of the individuals behind the creation of CEM. No other strategies such as biofuels or fuel efficiency have been publicly noted, but I bet this will change over time.
Another global initiative announced during CEM7 this week was the below50 initiative, a partnership of companies (e.g. LanzaTech, DuPont, Novozymes, Audi, Joule and others), the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL). below50 is designed to grow a global corporate market for the best-of-breed sustainable low-carbon fuels, and any company who produces, uses and/or invests in fuels that are at least 50% less carbon intensive than conventional fossil fuels can join below50.
Companies must publicly commit to the campaign, show evidence that supports their claim, and disclose their progress towards achieving this goal. I think it could be an important pathway toward publicly demonstrating the potential and capability, especially for advanced biofuels and can only help in scale up efforts.
The initiative is an outgrowth of the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi) of which one of the working groups focused on low carbon transport fuels. The working group produced a report last year which among other findings, highlighted that the “inconsistency and lack of policies are barriers for further deployment of emerging and existing technologies” which was noted by the REN 21 annual report as well.
The bottom line is in the coming years there will be much more focus on the challenge of bringing clean energies and technologies into the transport space and developing a convergence of strategies that best fit different global rural, urban and suburban locales.
Admittedly, I don’t know a thing about urban planning but I do know that to really combat climate change and get that 2°C reduction agreed to at the COP21 talks in Paris, cities are going to have to be totally rethought. And this article highlights the challenges of this especially since infrastructure is in such bad shape in the U.S. Think about what this means for the world’s megacities! The article also highlights the potential benefits, which include better social inclusion and cohesion.
Some jurisdictions are already struggling with this question as it pertains to transport and making cities more livable, banning cars on certain days, or banning older vehicles, or proposing permanent bans altogether. Others are banning or limiting certain types of vehicles. Others are working on improved public transport and bike paths. The IEA this week published a study on the issue, Energy Technology Perspectives 2016: Towards Sustainable Urban Energy Systems, noting that the deployment of clean energy technologies and changing citizen behavior will be two key strategies to help solve the issue.
The U.C. Davis Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) has been monitoring and analyzing the low carbon fuels standard (LCFS) since its inception, and has been putting these great summaries together for several years now. Highlights from the recent report include the following: