Driving Innovation through the Decarbonisation of Transport
Following several delays, the UK Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan was published on 14 July. It covers all forms of domestic transport including road, rail, shipping and aviation, and aims to align all travel and logistics with the UK 2050 net-zero target.
The plan features a number of headline-grabbing commitments including a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles and buses by 2040; the removal of all diesel-only trains by 2040; the launch of a “Jet Zero” consultation; and the aim to decarbonise the domestic maritime sector “as early as is feasible”. Transport Scotland’s Mission Zero strategy goes even further on some of the same modes of transport. Examples include the decarbonisation of rail, and the phasing out of diesel heavy good vehicles by 2035, and the phasing out of diesel buses by 2024, significantly ahead of the UK government targets.
This all sounds great, but some sectors have a much more challenging journey ahead and will require significantly greater innovation, investment, policy statements and associated regulatory changes. The exciting things is that these ambitious plans backed up by policies and investment could stimulate significant innovations in the near future.
Transport Scotland recently announced a fund of £50m for zero emission buses which is “designed in a way that maximises opportunities to attract sustainable financing and encourage innovative ways of doing so”. This recognises the need for additional innovation in both the financial and non-financial models and incentives which are required to deliver the stated net-zero ambitions of both UK and Scottish governments.
Different energy vectors can also play a role in supporting the transport sector to transition to net-zero. Scotland is particularly well placed to develop and deploy green hydrogen-based solutions. For heavy vehicles, biomethane could also perform a function in reducing emissions in the near-term whilst the introduction of green hydrogen builds. Each new energy vector will need significant investment in scale up, deployment, skills and innovation.
Unprecedented co-operation between the transport and energy networks will also be critical to the delivery of the most efficient and effective solutions. This is why we have launched our first ever MSIP Innovation Challenge . We are looking to support a range of projects that deliver or demonstrate the viability of zero emission alternatives for small scale off-grid, mobile or temporary energy provision. These can include early stage opportunity or feasibility studies which will allow companies to develop a platform for future product and process development projects.
Sarah Petrie, Innovation Director, MSIP