Impact4All columnist Robert Brears highlights some of the best green public transport projects in the world
Currently, the transport sector’s share of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions is 23 per cent and this figure steadily increased by 2.5 per cent each year between 2010 and 2015. The transport industry is also the sector with the lowest level of renewable energy use.
Bucking this trend are a number of cities that have taken the initiative to decarbonise their public transportation sector across a range of transportation types.
Buses going fossil free
In 2015, the board of Ruter, the public transport authority for the Oslo and Akershus region, adopted an ambitious plan to have only low and zero-emission buses that run on renewable energy by 2020. Currently, of the 1,200 buses in operation, 66 per cent run on fossil fuel, 20 per cent on biodiesel, and 12 per cent on biogas.
Biogas is expected to increase its share while the majority of the buses will be electric. In addition, Ruter has been testing fuel cell buses running on hydrogen where the energy is stored in hydrogen gas instead of in batteries.
The world’s first electric articulated bus
Bogotá has introduced the world’s first all-electric TransMilenio articulated bus that will save 1,400 gallons of diesel each month and curb 135 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
The bus is part of TransMilenio’s long-term objective of having zero fuel buses, eliminating both carbon emissions and a dependency on diesel. The bus has a long range having covered, during an earlier test, 409 kilometreson a single charge. The recharging time of the vehicle is three hours.
Studying renewable fuels for ferries
The New York City Council has passed the INT. 54 bill that encourages the use of alternative fuels and fuel technologies in city ferries. The legislation requires a two-year study on the feasibility of using alternative fuels, including biodiesel, and fuel technologies, including hybrid electric, in city ferries or those operated on behalf of the city.
The study will examine the availability, storage, ferry compatibility, possible barriers, regulatory requirements, and recommendations related to these uses of renewable fuels. At the end of the study, the city will implement the use of renewable fuels if it is feasible and practical.
Wind and solar powered trains
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco has approved two 20-year renewable energy power purchase agreements with NextEra Energy Resources to ensure the District gets the majority of its electricity supply from renewable, competitively-priced sources through to at least 2040.
One of the agreements will see a new 61.7 MW wind energy project as well as a new 45 MW solar energy project being built to provide renewable energy to BART.
These agreements will see BART’s share of electricity coming from renewable sources increasing from four per cent currently to 90 per cent in 2021.
World’s first solar-powered tram
Melbourne’s tram network will be powered by new large-scale solar plants to be built in regional Victoria. The plants will generate over 100 MW, of which around 35 MW will be linked to the tram network.
The result of the solar-powered trams will be a reduction of more than 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount as taking 17,000 cars off the road for a year.
Cities around the world can utilise renewable energy to decarbonise their buses, ferries, trams, and trains, helping to reverse the sector’s rising emissions profile.
Robert C. Brears is the author of The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan).
Brears is also the founder of Mitidaption, Mark and Focus, and Our Future Water. He specialises in the impacts of climate change and environmental risks to business, governance and society and adaptation strategies to mitigate these risks.