Tackling how to transition away from fossil fuels

The VTA was thrilled to recently host an Alternative Fuels Summit to tackle the important challenge of how our industry can start the important transition away from traditional fossil fuels.

The road freight industry is dependent upon diesel fuel to provide the services that all of the population needs. Our trucks need fuel to operate. We need consistency of supply, predictable costs and a return on effort and investment. Our sources of energy are changing and the nature of fuel will look very different in the not so distant future.

Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased carbon emissions are already having widespread effects on the environment. But as these effects accelerate their impact, they have become more noticeable and more measurable. Global climate change is not a future problem. It is something that is being dealt with now. Stopping or repairing the effects of mankind on this earth is a goal that is a long way off. What we do today will have a significant effect on the generations that will come after us.

As our actions and attitudes towards slowing the effects of climate change also start to accelerate, it becomes apparent that the challenges of change become more confronting. We would all like all the climate problems fixed, but to what level of disruption in my day-to-day life. We don’t all want to become Climate Warriors but we do want to face our responsibilities.

Reducing our industry’s dependence on carbon-based fuels is one of those responsibilities. Acknowledging that we can reduce the negative effect of carbon emissions from the burning of diesel is an early step. But it is a very difficult step. We have become dependent upon the ease of process in maintaining this energy source and methods of operation, business measurement and levels of service expectations rest firmly in the steady supply of diesel. We focus on its cost, think rarely about supply disruptions and have not been supplied with any relevant alternative.   

As I said to delegates at the summit: why should I worry about climate change? The answer is simple – change is coming and coming very quickly.

Change can be difficult. Difficult to understand, difficult to foresee and difficult to adapt. Understanding what we can do in our industry and our businesses is a vital first step in acknowledging any change. 

The Alternative Fuels Summit was planned from a perspective of zero understanding. Knowing that the movement to reduce emissions is growing, all road transport operators should now be planning and estimating what level of action and commitment they will need to take to meet their future responsibilities.

It is very confronting. How will I operate without diesel? How will I meet my current or future capital commitments? What will it cost my business to change? Will my customers be willing to pay more for the same service?

The summit provided direction and confidence for operators to be able to understand what the future will look like.  Our expert presenters took delegates on a journey – Why change our energy source, what fuels will be available in the future, what can the government do, what will transition look like and what products are available now. 

It was terrific to hear about the exciting developments from fuel companies like Viva Energy who are leading the transport industry in transitioning to alternative fuels like hydrogen, that right now is being deployed to power heavy vehicles. 

Viva is doing terrific work in making hydrogen available to freight operators with is charging hub in Geelong well on its way to becoming operational and able to fuel hydrogen buses, and heavy, waste and recovery vehicles. And of course, equipment providers like Volvo, Daimler, Hyzon and SEA Electric are already manufacturing vehicles that can tap into electric and hydrogen fuelling technology.

With the recent change of government and the subsequent legislation of a lower emissions reduction target of 43 per cent (based on 2005 emissions), the industry’s acceleration towards alternative fuels will rapidly increase.

Operators that start to plan for the transition early will benefit from early-adoption to the equipment, fuels, and technology of the not-too-distant future.

  • Peter Anderson is CEO, Victorian Transport Association

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