Advanced biofuels also provide cheapest way to deliver reductions
Significant reductions in UK road transport CO2 emissions can be achieved by 2030 through blending higher levels of sustainable biofuels into road transport fuels. An Element Energy report published today finds that by 2030, higher levels of biofuels could cut Britain’s annual car CO2 emissions by 27% or 12 million tonnes a year (Mt).
The report, which explores the role of biofuels beyond 2020, found that a 27% reduction on emissions in 2030 would result from a “high biofuels pathway” – blending levels of up to 19% of advanced “drop-in” biofuels which are fully compatible with modern engines into road transport fuels. This compares with the current level of 5% biofuels blended in UK road fuels.
Emissions could still be cut by 9% (4Mt) without widespread uptake of advanced biofuels via a “medium biofuels pathway”. Under this scenario, 20% biofuel blends would be introduced from 2020, including use of some advanced biofuels such as ethanol made from cellulosic feedstock, in line with the UK government’s most stringent sustainability assumptions, known as the ‘Highly Restrictive Sustainability Standards Scenario’.
While reducing emissions through biofuels will require changes to the way we use fuel, the report predicts that drivers won’t be hit at the pumps. The study finds that, based on current cost projections within the medium pathway, the owner of an average car would see their annual fuel bill increase by just £13 in 2030.
Crucially, with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles expected to continue to dominate the car fleet until at least 2030, the report’s “pathways” also show how biofuels can work alongside – rather than in competition with – new hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, avoiding the risk of a technology ‘lock-in’.
Element Energy Associate Director Alex Stewart said: “In the long term, electric plug–in and fuel cell vehicles are likely to play a significant role in the transport mix. But we also expect high numbers of ICE-derived vehicles to still be in circulation by 2030, so lower carbon liquid fuels have to play a major part in meeting the UK’s CO2 targets.
“Biofuels also offer a more cost effective way to reduce emissions over the next 17 years, with a fuel premium of £336m in 2030 against the £1.2bn it would cost in customer incentives to achieve the same CO2 savings with plug-in vehicles.”
Andy Eastlake, managing director of Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, an advisory group promoting the shift to clean low carbon vehicles and fuels said: “This report provides evidence that biofuels of the highest sustainability standards could have an important part to play in the UK’s carbon reduction strategy.
“We firmly believe that a broad range of low carbon solutions are necessary; decarbonising liquid fuel used in combustion engines is one of the best ways to make significant progress in the short to medium-term.”
This report, The Role of Biofuels Beyond 2020, was commissioned by BP. A full copy of the report is available here.