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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Transport decarbonisation faces severe emissions challenge


Artist's graphic of a collection of different transport modes Photo: Adobe Stock
The transport of passengers and goods accounts for about a quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions, a share forecast to rise to 30% by 2050, according to DNV

Photo: Adobe Stock

Although the global transport sector will be revolutionised by electrification, it faces a ‘severe emission challenge’, according to the latest analysis from DNV. The sector’s share of overall emissions is set to grow from 25% today to 30% by 2050 as a large part of the transport system will remain fossil fuel dependent.

Electricity is gaining traction in so called ‘hard-to-electrify’ transport sectors such as heavy trucking and aviation, and is anticipated to grow from 1% today to 23% in 2050, according to DNV’s latest Transport in Transition report.


However, despite oil demand in the transport sector forecast to halve by 2050, the present pace of the transition still falls severely short of the goals of the Paris Agreement, suggests the study. Today, transport of passengers and goods accounts for about a quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions, a share forecast to rise to 30% by 2050. ‘Opportunities to accelerate change through pilot projects and uptake of alternative energy need to be seized as soon as possible,’ the report states.


Road transport is expected to lead the way in reducing the transport sector’s reliance on fossil fuels, falling from 38mn b/d today to 19mn b/d in 2050, reducing share from 91% to 57%, according to DNV. Conversely, the consumption of oil within aviation is expected to ‘be virtually flat to 2050, with hydrocarbons set to have a 60% share in the sector in the same year’.


Meanwhile, driven by the decarbonisation push, the fuel mix in the maritime sector is predicted to also change significantly over the coming decades. By 2050, it will likely transition from being almost entirely oil-based to an energy mix comprising of 50% low- and zero-carbon fuels, 19% natural gas and 18% biomass, suggests the study. However, electricity is forecast to obtain only a 4% share, from short-sea shipping and port stays for larger vessels.


Regions such as Europe, North America and Greater China are seen as frontrunners in the uptake of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), also investing in parallel in hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels as the most promising option for moving heavy goods over long distances. At the other end of the spectrum, regions including Sub-Saharan Africa and North East Eurasia remain far away from establishing the infrastructure and producing the quantities of renewable electricity required to decarbonise road transport, notes DNV.


Commenting on the report’s findings, Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO, DNV says: ‘Our Transport in Transition report highlights the challenges facing the industry and where further policies and investments are urgently needed to fast-track decarbonisation of the transport sector. There is a pressing need for reliable non-fossil fuels to support emission reductions, particularly in the maritime and aviation sectors. It is essential that policy makers accelerate efforts to incentivise research and development, pilot projects and commercial uptake of carbon-neutral and zero-carbon fuels across the transport sector to support mid-century net zero goals.’


The report also underlines the challenge in deriving a single solution for the decarbonisation of transport, and identifies a number of constraints associated with the adoption of biofuels, renewable electricity and CO2. There is no ‘one size fits all’, states the report, with a variety of energy sources needed to tackle the challenge in each sector, such as BEVs for passenger vehicles and trucks, fuel cell electric vehicles for the heaviest long-distance trucks, and bio- or hydrogen-based synthetic low or zero-carbon fuels for maritime and aviation.


DNV notes: ‘Encouragingly, as the aviation sector strives to support decarbonisation efforts, biofuels are set to supply a quarter of aviation demand by 2050.’ However, the report emphasises the importance of governmental and industry back-up to manage the rise in advanced biofuels for aviation and maritime, with the sustainable fuel expected to be more expensive than fossil fuel counterparts. On the other hand, ‘for sectors that can use direct electrification, future users will gain from superb efficiency in electric drive-trains and experience cheaper transport’, the report says.