IEA chief: Ethanol ‘very important’ to reduce oil dependence

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the COP24 in Katowice in Poland, Dr Birol, an influential man in global climate change talks, highlighted ethanol’s contribution to cleaner transport. [Sarantis Michalopoulos]

This article is part of our special report COP24: Options to decarbonise transport.

Ethanol will have a very important role in decarbonising the transport sector globally, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has told EURACTIV.com. Another energy expert has said electrification will play a major role in transport but is not applicable to all sectors, which is where biofuels come in.

Speaking on the sidelines of the COP24 in Katowice in Poland, the IEA’s Fatih Birol, an influential figure in global climate change talks, highlighted ethanol’s contribution to cleaner transport.

Ethanol “is very important because it is part of the solution in terms of reducing the oil import dependence of many countries,” Birol said.

“At the same time, ethanol will help reduce CO2 emissions from the transport sector as well as other sectors,” he added.

The IEA, a Paris-based intergovernmental organisation, was established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.

Its initial goal was to help countries address major disruptions in the supply of oil. Since then, its role has expanded and it also examines energy issues ranging from oil, gas and coal supply and demand to renewable energy technologies and electricity markets.

IPCC scientist: E-mobility not the only way to decarbonise transport

When it comes to decarbonisation of transport, switching to electric cars is just one option and there are a number of others, such as biofuels, that should not be discarded,  a scientist from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told EURACTIV.com on the sidelines of COP24 in Katowice.

“Overlooked giant”

In October, the agency published a report saying the share of bioenergy in total renewables consumption globally is about 50% today – as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined.

Bioenergy is the “overlooked giant” in the renewable energy puzzle, the report concluded, adding it will represent the largest source of growth in renewable consumption over the period 2018-2023.

Caroline Lee, an energy policy analyst at the IEA, said electrification will help decarbonise many sectors of the economy but not all. “There are certain areas of the transport sector that are difficult to electrify and will still require liquid fuels in order to run and function properly,” she told EURACTIV, referring to aviation and heavy-duty road transport.

The electrification of car fleets is not the only solution, she said, adding that biofuels will play a significant role there as well. “Certainly, biofuels are an important part. One scenario we see is that by 2040, about 50% of the passenger cars stock is comprised of electric vehicles. This is a lot considering that currently, the percentage is 0.3% today,” she said.

Referring to electric cars, she said government’s policies are the primary driver of transport decarbonisation efforts. But there has been a pull-back in the financial subsidies of electric vehicles in a number of countries and in these cases “we see a very discreet slowdown in the deployment of these vehicles”.

Lee also noted that support for rcharging infrastructure will be needed, as well as an energy grid flexible enough to accommodate high shares of electric vehicles. “These types of investments are driven by governments, not by the private sector,” she pointed out.

Biofuels and electromobility are key in Portugal’s transport decarbonisation

Portugal will use both electromobility and biofuels to decarbonise its transport sector by 2050, José Mendes, Portuguese First Secretary of State for Mobility – Environment and Energy Transition, told EURACTIV.com in an interview.

COP24: Options to decarbonise transport

Transport is the only sector of the economy whose GHG emissions are increasing globally, scientists have warned.

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