A flurry of consultations on transport and fuels announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) this week outline the development of new aviation fuel policies, a £390m investment fund into cleaner cars and vans – as outlined in last week’s Autumn Statement – and a boost to the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

DfT confirmed details of where the £390m funding it has received to deliver “future transport technology” will go. A particular focus will be put on the development of driverless cars, renewable fuels and energy-efficient transport as the UK looks to boost its low-carbon vehicle transition, the Department said.

It will invest £150m in cleaner buses and taxis, and will roll out new, less-polluting buses across UK roads as well as retrofitting engines on current models to reduce NOx emissions.

Additionally, £80m will be set aside to improve EV charging infrastructure across the country through the workplace charging scheme (WPS), and a further £20m will be put towards an advanced renewable fuel demonstration competition – with funding, matched by the private sector – to build demonstration-scale advanced renewable fuel plants in the UK.

A further £100m will then be used to boost the Government’s plans to develop and test connected and driverless vehicle technology, which is an increasing focus for car manufacturers

This funding boost for EV charging points is the latest in a series of private and public sector pushes towards transferring to a EV-based automotive future. The DfT announced last month plans to increase the convenience and availability of EV charge points.

Commenting on the £80m being set aside to fund EV infrastructure growth, Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low – the Government-funded campaign to promote the use of electric and hybrid vehicles – said: “The £80m investment in charging infrastructure is vital as growth in the UK electric vehicle market continues to accelerate.

“This is fantastic news for motorists and the continuation of incentives for plug-in vehicles through company tax and salary sacrifice schemes will give thousands more people the option of choosing the very lowest emitting cars and allow more businesses to benefit from adding electric vehicles to their fleets.”

Sustainable aviation

Meanwhile, DfT released a new report this week – The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order (RTFO) Proposed amendments –  which outlines several proposals to promote the development of renewable fuels for aviation. These include proposing to extend eligibility for reward under the RTFO to both renewable aviation turbine fuel (avtur) and renewable aviation gasoline (avgas).

Under these new proposals, renewable aviation fuels would be subject to the same sustainability criteria as other renewable fuels and will be eligible for one renewable transport fuel certificate (RTFC) per litre of fuel produced. The inclusion of aviation fuels in the RTFO consultations has been welcomed by Sustainable Aviation – a coalition of airlines, airports, aerospace manufacturers and air traffic providers, which has previously called for a level playing field for aviation biofuels.

Sustainable Aviation chair Ian Jopson said the consultation could provide the right economic conditions for the production of innovative and sustainable bio jet-fuels. “This is a welcome step forward and could mean a more sustainable future for aviation in the UK and beyond,” Jopson said.

“We believe that producers of sustainable aviation fuel should be able to benefit from the new policy framework by allowing them to ‘opt-in’ to the system to receive credits. It is an exciting prospect and could lead to the UK taking a leading role in the production of sustainable jet fuel. We need to ensure that the new regulations do support innovation and attract investment in the UK.”

Sustainable Aviation suggests that the consultation could result in the creation of 4,400 jobs, contributing up to £300m to the UK economy by 2030. Also, sustainable fuels could reduce overall UK aviation emissions by up to 24%.

This could represent an important step in realising the aviation industry’s ambitious goal to deliver carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. New aircraft technology and market-based measures will be further discussed in the upcoming Sustainable Aviation Carbon Road-Map debate in the House of Commons on 5 December.

A recent Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report revealed that the UK faces an uphill battle to reach its 2020 renewable targets across the carbon-intensive transport sector. A more joined-up approach between the DfT and BEIS would help to achieve an effective low-carbon transport regulatory framework, the EAC said.

Alex Baldwin

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