Natural gas and biomethane will play a significant role in long-term freight and passenger transport. This is what emerged during the conference Gas and Transport. Myths, Reality, Benefits organised by Latvian natural gas company Latvijas Gāze.
However, experts concluded that the promotion of the use of alternative fuels requires infrastructure, fiscal and financial support, as well as a review of European Union policies.
Indeed, one of the current challenges for EU climate policy is that legislation does not assist in reducing transport emissions. Executive Director of the German Gas Association Timm Kehler concluded that emissions have not decreased in the last 30 years since the road to climate neutrality in transport commenced.
According to Mr Kehler, one of the main shortcomings of the EU legal framework is its focus on exhaust emissions, without considering the total CO2 footprint of the vehicle and of fuel as an energy source, which would mean including the entire production cycle. In this regard, compressed natural gas (CNG) and biomethane would have a relatively fast impact on reducing emissions from road transport.
When it comes to Latvia specifically, the Minister of Transport Tālis Linkaits agreed that the set climate objectives are ambitious. He believes that CNG transport in the country has a future in cities where passengers are transported by buses. The wider use of CNG and biomethane cars could also be considered for carriers performing regular transportation in urban centres or densely populated areas, as CNG and biomethane engines are quieter than conventional fossil fuel engines and hardly emit any fine dust particles.
“Experts of the European Commission have modelled that the share of natural gas in the energy resources used in the transport sector will only reach an average of around 3 per cent in the EU in 2030, although, the share may vary slightly from one Member State to another,” explained Alda Ozola, Deputy State Secretary of Latvia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. “It should be borne in mind that, in the short and medium-term, the use of natural gas in vehicles can play a greater role as a transitional solution, allowing the reduction of GHG emissions and move towards reaching the 2030 climate objectives.”
Natural gas has a price advantage and the CNG car fleet would provide financial savings. However, more important than the cost of running a car is the availability of service stations. For example, Latvijas Gāze has started to offer companies the installation of private natural gas filling stations on their premises.
Andris Kulbergs, President of the Latvian Automobile Association emphasised that this is just the first step in promoting the use of alternative fuels. The next step is the renewal of the Latvian car fleet while stimulating the purchase of more environmentally-friendly vehicles.
“Currently, 75 per cent of cars in Latvia is more than ten years old and the situation has not improved in recent years,” he said. “I believe that this problem is partly due to the tax burden and the unavailability of bank funding. Therefore, in our opinion, it is necessary to create a low-emission car segment, which has special tax benefits and financial support for the first instalment.”
Discussions on the use of more environmentally friendly vehicles and the promotion of alternative fuels will certainly continue in the future and Latvijas Gāze invited politicians, international experts and representatives of non-governmental organisations in the field of transport to have a discussion on how to use the available resources for the benefit of the state, entrepreneurs and society.