Rise in Diesel Cancels Out Electricity Emissions Reduction

New research shows that an increase in diesel combustion emissions during FY11 to FY18 almost completely cancels out the decrease in emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM) over the same period.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released their latest National Energy Emissions Audit, analysing the electricity sector over the previous month.

Key Findings:

  • In the last decade, the fleet share of diesel vehicles has doubled for light commercial vehicles, such as utes, and tripled for passenger vehicles.
  • The increase in diesel combustion emissions from FY11 to FY18 (21.7 Mt CO2-e) almost completely erodes the decrease in emissions from electricity generation in the NEM over the same period (22.1 Mt CO2-e).
  • There has been a recent dip in the last six months of retail sales of diesel, meaning sales for road transport, though it’s too early to tell exactly why this has happened.
  • Much of the public debate about climate and energy policy fails to recognise the importance of emissions from use of petroleum fuels, especially diesel, seeing emissions solely through the lens of electricity.
  • Unless road transport emissions driven by growing diesel vehicle uptake stop growing, transport emissions could overtake emissions in national electricity market within a few years.

“Focusing purely on reducing electricity emissions while failing to recognise the importance of transport emissions is taking two steps forward, one step back,” says Dr Hugh Saddler, author of the report.

“In the 1990s diesel vehicles were viewed as better for the environment but technologies have evolved and many markets, particularly in Europe, are now moving away from diesel to cleaner alternatives through electric vehicle strategies and tightening fuel efficiency standards.

“The average diesel vehicle owner travels further than a petrol vehicle owner, and many of diesel engines have gotten larger, easily undoing the benefit of diesel as a lower CO2 polluting fuel than petrol.

“While governments have taken an active role to improve the fuel efficiency of heavy road freight vehicles, they have done very little to improve the efficiency of light vehicles, like the work ute or family car, with the issue placed in the purgatory of a Ministerial Forum for the last five years.”

The Australia Institute’s National Energy Emissions Audit, by Dr Hugh Saddler, can be found here or doanlaoded below.

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