EU is taking steps towards phasing out the fossil car

For the last seven months, I have been acting as the Head of European Office for Energy Norway in Brussels. This has been a temporary position, and by the end of this year I will return to my job at the energy group, Agder Energy, in Norway. In Brussels, I have been able to follow the energy transition up close. The EU has taken major steps towards creating a decarbonized economy and delivering on their commitments under the Paris Agreement. Examples here being the Clean Energy Package (CEP) that lays out the framework needed to facilitate the clean energy transition and the Commission’s 2050-strategy for decarbonizing the European economy. However, to reach the Union level goal of 40% emission reduction by 2030 there are still some work to be done. The last couple of months, transport has been on everyone’s mind in Brussels. More specifically CO2-standards for new cars and the promotion of zero-emission vehicles. The Commission launched the Clean Mobility Package (CMP) in November 2017, and right now the negotiations between the member states, the Parliament and the Commission are at full speed.

The debates in Brussels got me to think about the development we have seen in Norway. At home, my family now owns one electric car and one hybrid, a walk in Oslo will make you wonder if the city is sponsored by Tesla and for our members in Energy Norway the relationship between EVs and the grid is often a topic on the agenda.  Zero-emission vehicles, and especially electric vehicles, have seen an enormous technological development in recent years. This is a consequence of ambitious emission-targets and support from governments. In Norway we have seen that with forward-looking and predictable policies, EVs has become the preferred choice among consumers. Norway introduced incentives for electric cars already in the 1990s. The rationale then was to fight local air pollution and clean up the cities, today the climate challenge is the main driver for supporting the deployment of EVs. The government in Norway has set the goal that all new cars sold in 2025 should be zero-emissions cars. To incentivize this development the government has used the tax legislation through exemptions from purchasing taxes, no charges on toll roads for EVs, allowing EVs to drive in the public transport lanes and free parking. This has had an effect. In 2017, close to 150.000 EVs were registered in Norway, and we are a worldwide leader by market share in EVs.

The point of this blog post is not to portray Norway as the world champion of EVs, but more to bring your attention to the revolution that is happening in clean transport. Norway is one example, however recent developments in Brussels suggests that the fossil car may not have a long life ahead in Europe either. The EU member states, led by the Nordic countries, have, through the negotiations on the CMP, been pushing for tougher CO2 targets on car emissions. This will mean a shift towards the use of cleaner cars. The original proposal from the Commission was a 30% cut in CO2 emissions from cars by 2030. During the EU environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg on October 9, the ministers voted to cut CO2 emissions by 35% for cars and 30% for vans by 2030. Right before this meeting, the Parliament had already voted to cut the CO2 emissions by 40% for cars by 2030.  The negotiations are continuing, with the ambition to finalize the legislative package during the first months of 2019. The important thing is not so much the numbers as the shift in public opinion and political stands. The European transport sector must be revolutionized to reach the climate goals, take care of local pollution and compete in an international market where China and the U.S is taking large market shares in clean technologies.

It is one thing to set the CO2 targets, another issue is to facilitate the development by building out the necessary infrastructure. There must be enough charging points and the distribution grid must be able to handle the uptake in EVs. Should market actors or distribution system operators (DSOs) build and own charging infrastructure? Could EVs be used to balance the grid? These are questions currently being addressed in Brussels, and Nordenergi is following the debate closely. However, with some issues remaining, one thing is clear: the carbon-free revolution is coming to the transport sector as well.

Andrea L. Torjussen

Head of European Office

Energy Norway

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