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Biomethane: London’s answer to saving thousands of lives

In the week in which senior industry leaders came together at ADBA’s second UK Biomethane & Gas Vehicle Conference (09 September 2014) to discuss the sector’s strong growth and limiting factors, the Mayor of London has appeared before the House of Common’s Environmental Audit Committee over concerns that London continues to breach European laws on air pollution after almost five years. Current expectations are that London is not expected to meet the EU standards on nitrogen dioxide pollution until 2030, which is a matter of great concern to Londoners as research commissioned by the Mayor suggests that the city’s pollution levels cost 4,300 lives each year. Conceding that more can be done, Boris Johnson said, “there are great things we could do with low carbon vehicles, with stimulating the market for low carbon vehicles.”  In response, ADBA is emphasising the important role that biomethane can play in improving poor air quality in our towns and cities. Highlighting biomethane’s benefits, ADBA’s Chief Executive, Charlotte Morton, commented:

Biomethane offers significant environmental and cost advantages compared to diesel, and is ideal for use in HGVs, buses and waste collection vehicles, playing an important role in improving the poor air quality in our towns and cities.

The UK Biomethane & Gas Vehicle Conference which ADBA hosted earlier this week highlighted the exceptional demand for biomethane within the haulage and freight sector to reduce carbon emissions and harmful NOx and particulate emissions.

The challenge is meeting this demand. Whilst this has been by far the AD industry’s best year yet, the outlook for the supply of biomethane is bleak without strong government incentives to build the necessary infrastructure.

Party manifestos need to address this concern and not just through targeted incentives which support biomethane production, but also through a ban on food waste to landfill, the proper facilitation of separate waste collections and bioenergy sustainability criteria that recognise all the benefits of AD.

During the biomethane conference, Wakefield Council’s Environmental Health Manager, Gary Blenkinsop, reported the potential benefits of using biomethane as including:

  • 80 – 90% reduction in NOx;
  • 95% reduction in particulate emissions;
  • 20 – 30% reduction in carbon dioxide levels;
  • 78 pence per litre equivalent costs; and
  • A payback period of 12-24 months.

Mr Johnson’s solution, however, rests with electric cars at a time when industry regulator, Ofgem, has reported that spare electricity power production capacity could fall to 2% by 2015; dramatically increasing the risk of blackouts.  In addition, according to the Gas Vehicle Alliance, electric cars are still responsible for 75gCO2 eq./km in greenhouse emissions compared to just 5gCO2 eq./km for biomethane. With strong growth in the use of road gas, a more targeted approach towards converting London’s biggest polluters – such as HGVs, vans and buses which contribute around 40% of the UK’s vehicle emissions – could significantly reduce associated environmental and health risks. Whilst further technological advances are needed to fully realise the sector’s growth potential, new developments are emerging such as Scania’s new gas-powered double-decker buses which will join the UK market late next year and provide significant, cost-effective opportunities for London’s bus network. Commenting at ADBA’s Biomethane conference earlier in the week, Colin Matthews, Managing Director of JouleVert, remarked:

When it comes to commercial vehicles biomethane provides the best environmental solution in terms of both carbon reduction and improved air quality. Biomethane is, in addition, the most cost effective solution to fleet operators of larger vehicles.

John Bickerton, Chief Engineer with Reading Buses, added:

Biomethane is delivering sustainable transport to the people of Reading, and a commercial cost-per-mile benefit to us as a vehicle operator. The vehicles are clean, smooth and quiet, and our passengers love them!

Posted in: News for Members, Policy updates

Tags: biomethane, Derek Sivyer, government, London, Mayor of London, UK Biomethane and Gas Vehicle Conference 2014