EXCLUSIVE: DECC’s plans for biomethane ‘anti-competitive’ says UPS

Internal conflicts in Government are restricting the use of biomethane in the transport and logistics sector, which could potentially decarbonise heavy truck fleets, says UPS' director of sustainability for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Peter Harris.

According to Harris, biomethane is arguably the only fully sustainable biofuel available that does not impact the environment through land use.

“When you look at a lot of the liquid biofuels that are out there now in what’s called first generation form, they can give you some apparent gains but when you dig deeper below the surface you get into this whole land use debate,” adds Harris.

“You have to consider the issues around the crops being grown to give you that biofuel and what would that land otherwise of been doing, have you therefore really made a net gain for society?”.

Harris says biomethane avoids this problem because it is made from waste organic matter, such as food waste or even sewerage.

It can be made by capturing the methane gas from a landfill site or it can be produced industrially from an anaerobic digester.

UPS currently has 10 vehicles running on biomethane and it is about to double the fleet to 20. “We’d like to do a lot more but the main thing that is holding us back throughout the UK and Europe is the availability of biomethane.

“However, the problem is not with the availability of organic waste, there’s plenty of waste when you consider as a planet we manage to waste half the food we produce,” he adds.

According to Harris, the issue lies with what happens to the waste, and currently the majority is diverted into the generation of electricity or heat.

Harris says this is better than not using it at all but the industry’s argument is that biomethane is one of the “very few, arguably the only fuel right now” which can be used to decarbonise heavy truck fleets.

“We think what is happening right now is anti-competitive and that we don’t have the same opportunities that the other industries have.

“Given that there are so few, if any, alternatives in our sector but there are alternatives for the electricity sector, we think we should have an equal crack of the whip and it’s about levelling the incentives playing field that exists right now in terms of how this stuff gets used that we’re trying to negotiate with government.

Harris holds the Government accountable for the way biomethane is being utilised and departmental conflicts are, he adds, restricting its potential in the sector.

“It’s about a lack of joined up Government, so what’s happening in the UK for example we have the Department for Transport (DfT), DECC, Defra and the Treasury and they all view this issue through their own eyes,” says Harris.

“They are not working together very effectively and we’re trying to encourage them to do so because DECC has stolen a lead on the other departments and is really capitalising on this resource for its own purposes, which is electricity and heat and the DfT has been left behind,” he adds.

For more on UPS’ strategy for reducing CO2 emissions read ‘UPS: en route to a fuel efficient future’

Leigh Stringer

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