Renewable fuels could cut extra 46m tonnes GHG emissions from truck operations by 2030 as UK aims for net zero 2050

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A new study by Zemo Partnership (formerly LowCVP) shows how the widespread adoption of high-blend renewable fuels (HBRF) can speed up decarbonisation in road transport and support the UK’s transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

Coming hot on the heels of the announcement to introduce E10 into the UK (potentially doubling the renewable content of petrol) the report shows that even greater greenhouse gas (GHG) savings can be realised with an aggressive policy framework for HBRF in heavy duty vehicles currently running on diesel and natural gas.

The report says the use of HBRF is particularly effective and has the greatest potential in heavier and long-haul applications which will also be the most difficult to electrify in the short-term. The study highlights how a near-term policy to encourage HBRF can complement and enhance the long-term electrification strategy for transport.

A key recommendation of the report is for a robust and transparent Assurance Scheme to provide operators with confidence in the credentials of the renewable fuels they purchase. Zemo Partnership’s new Renewable Fuels Assurance Scheme and declaration certificate have been developed in parallel and will be launching soon.

While the electrification of cars and vans is proceeding apace – towards the 2030/5 ICE phase-out date – larger, long-range heavy vehicles (and, indeed, legacy cars and vans) are expected to be on the road for the next 20-30 years. Cutting GHG emissions from these heavier vehicles, particularly over the next decade when conventional fuel use will continue to be widespread, remains a key objective as the UK strives to achieve net zero.

Renewable fuels – which can demonstrate over 80% well-to-wheel reductions in GHG emissions - could also help ensure that the UK meets the Fourth Carbon Budget (2023-27).

The new Zemo Partnership HBRF study shows that there are very significant opportunities for sustainable, renewable fuel adoption by heavy duty vehicles and, in particular, trucks and coaches which are currently responsible for around 5% of the UK’s total GHG emissions.

The study showed that with a market average of 30% HBRF, used in place of fossil fuels (diesel and natural gas) by 2030, the sector could save an additional 46m tonnes in GHG emissions over the next decade, with savings continuing to 2050. The biggest opportunities are in the heaviest vehicles with the longest journey profiles, which also produce the most GHG emissions.

The report covers renewable fuels including biodiesel, hydrotreated vegetable oil and biomethane, identifying the barriers to adoption and the GHG-saving opportunities available from HBRF to support different rates of electrification in these fleets.

High blend biodiesel has already made good inroads in the bus market while both biomethane and HVO adoption in HGV fleets have shown encouraging recent increases, driven partly by requirements for carbon reporting and GHG emissions improvements.

Stakeholders contributing to the report identified several key policy interventions which could encourage HBRF uptake including: reforming fuel duty based on the carbon and energy content of fuels; increasing the 2032 Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) target; and raising awareness of the GHG emissions savings and sustainability performance of renewable fuels.

Zemo Partnership’s head of Sustainability Gloria Esposito says: “We’re now on a trajectory for net zero emissions transport by 2050, but our impact on the climate is what matters and action in this area can accelerate GHG emissions cuts over the next 30 years.

“If we can decarbonise the fuels we’ll be using until we can achieve full electrification across the vehicle fleet, we can minimise the impact of emissions from road transport on our way to zero.”