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Demand curbs, not 'muddled' ULEV targets, key to sound green transport

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

ULEV uptake targets are 'muddled', according to a report released by The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), detailing the need for reductions in UK energy demand.

The report said targets used and recommended by government and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) are weakened and ‘muddled’ by differences in dates, whether they include cars and vans or cars alone, which technologies count as ultra-low emissions and whether the targets relate to new vehicle sales or the proportion of vehicles on the road.

It claimed the UK’s target of banning the sale of conventional vehicles by 2040 isn’t stringent enough compared to the targets of other countries, particularly due to the allowance of hybrids past this date. It also criticised the Road to Zero strategy for not containing any specified delivery mechanisms.

A 2040 ban that allows conventional hybrids (HEV) and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) into the ULEV classification would reduce tailpipe CO2 emissions by 61% by 2050 in comparison to 1990 levels, the report suggests. If new hybrids were also banned, there would be an 88% reduction, or 93% if banned from 2030. CREDS recommended that the government restructures ULEV targets to include the phasing-out of hybrid cars.

In a statement issued to Current±, a Department for Transport spokesperson said the department is committed to future-proofing towns and cities for journeys which reduce traffic, tackle carbon emissions and improve air quality.

“This year, we launched the biggest regulatory review in a generation to ensure we are ready to take advantage of new technologies which can help achieve this. We’re also helping more people choose cleaner, greener forms of transport by investing around £2 billion in active travel over the course of this Parliament.”

However, the recommendations weren’t solely focused on transport. The report also criticised the capacity market as a mechanism for delivery flexibility, calling it ‘ineffective’ and recommending that contracts become longer for storage, allowing it to compete against fossil fuel assets, which see contracts of up to 15 years.

It also called for a review into the electricity and gas retail markets, claiming the strong focus of existing policy on wholesale markets, such as in the process of Electricity Market Reform, is ‘very unhelpful’. As self-supply and peer-to-peer trading become more common, and may undermine existing markets, a fundamental review into whether their focus on commodity sales is fit for purpose should be conducted.

A reduction in demand across sectors and an increase in flexibility will be ‘hugely important’ to the energy transition and a mismatch of policy that focuses more heavily on energy supply requires ‘closer attention’, CREDS said.

In transport, decarbonisation should occur alongside efforts to reduce demand, for example through encouraging car sharing or making public transport more accessible, to improve congestion and air quality.

Nick Eyre, director of CREDS, said changing the way energy is used will be “crucial” to delivering net zero. “Demand-side change has to be a major part of the strategy for an affordable, secure, net-zero carbon energy system. Delivering it will not be easy, as it is a broad and complex agenda. But delivering the UK’s transition without doing this would be much more difficult," Eyre added.

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