At Aston University, a chief energy expert has instructed the government to invest in low carbon fuels—along with electric—if it desires to attain its 2050 net zero ambition.
Professor Patricia Thornley has headed a Department for Transport (DfT) advisory paper on low carbon transport fuels.
The paper suggests that the decarbonization of the United Kingdom’s transport systems will require the government to support the application of low carbon fuels and widespread battery electrification where feasible.
Professor Thornley and the other members of the Scientific Advisory Council assessed the opportunities and challenges of developing and utilizing varied fuels and their probable effect on the broader energy system.
The authors note that low carbon fuels, like those prepared from agricultural waste, can provide reductions in emissions of carbon, aiding in meeting the government’s 2050 net zero goal. Subsequently, they state that sustained investment in this region is critical.
The study also notes that at this time it is still not clear if low carbon fuels will support only the transition to complete electrification of the United Kingdom’s transport systems or will be a long-term solution.
Successful decarbonization of transport systems in the UK will require flexible and adaptive government strategies that support the use of low-carbon fuels alongside widespread battery electrification, where that is possible. The optimal mix of low carbon fuels vs battery electrification in transport will depend on many different factors, some technological, some supply related, and others linked to the capacity of the UK to generate low carbon electricity.
We urgently need to better understand and manage the airborne emissions that can still be present with low carbon fuels (including hydrogen). That might result in us prioritizing different fuels or propulsion systems in different applications or even different parts of the UK. Agreeing that prioritization would allow us to prioritize appropriate next generation of infrastructure to support the UK’s net zero ambitions.
Professor Thornley, Director, Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI), Aston University
In March 2022, the Council was asked to offer support to the DfT, which is now developing a low carbon fuels strategy.
The report, Low carbon transport fuels: DfT Science Advisory Council position paper, was published on June 5th, 2023, and offers an independent suggestion on the role of low carbon fuels in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions of transport systems.