Global environmental challenges
Mankind faces the severe challenge of global climate changes. Warming due to air pollution threatens to create flooding that puts parts of the world under sea level as well as a shortage of water and the extension of deserts that threatens water supply, agriculture and food production.
Focus on these environmental challenges has gradually strengthened and motivated efforts to create sustainable solutions for different part of society. In the Kyoto protocol (1997) industrialized nations agree on reducing annual CO2 emissions as a means to stop global warming. The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. The result from the conference, attended by many of the world's leaders, was looked upon as a "meaningful agreement" but not legally binding. It was stated that climate change is one of the greatest challenges today and that actions should be taken to reduce CO2 emissions. New negotiations will be held i Mexico by the end of 2010.
Climate must be addressed on an international as well as national, regional and local level. Regions especially are in a position to play a key role in devising and implementing mitigation and adaptation measures to diminish the risks of climate changes.
Transportation as a part of the problem
The transport sector stands for an important part of the emissions that create global warming. (70% in Europe). Thus relevant actions in this sector are crucial, especially considering the importance of transportation for the developing of well functioning societies not only in today’s industrialized parts of the world.
While important development has been delivered by many other sectors of society (industry, house warming etc) the problems caused by the transport sector is still increasing, mainly due to increasing need to move people and goods and the growing number of cars.
The transport vehicles severe dependence on fossil fuels is a strategic problem to be solved. The private car is now object of a strong development to present efficient solutions to reduce the use of gasoline: more efficient engines, engines driven by sustainable “bio fuels” and/or hybrids that include electricity as fuel. An important part of public transportation is still operated by diesel buses, and the electricity use to trains operations often is produced by coal and other fossil fuels.
A first step to reduce environmental problems caused by the transport system would be to make more people leave the car at home and travel together with an accessible and attractive public transport.
Besides that a change from fossil to sustainable fuel is crucial to develop the transport system of the future. This is underlined by the fact that fossil fuel is a scarce resource that in the very long run will not provide sufficient supply for the transport sector, and before that will demand an increasing price for its users.
Public transport as a part of the solution
Public transport is a necessary part of a sustainable transportation system. When people co-ordinate their trips conditions for effective mobility is created.
There are two main challenges to public transport toll fulfil its role in the future:
- develop and offer an attractive supply of services to gain new customers and increase the market share
- to reduce pollution and noise from its own vehicles
photo by Andreas Karlsson, Mirakelfilm
Successful implementation of the first strategy demands efficient co-operation with land use planning, a relevant infrastructure and customer orientation as a base for development of services that corresponds with peoples needs and demands, and daily operations in close dialogue with customers.
Success in reducing the dependency on fossil fuels demands international co-operation between different industries and professions.
In the year 2025 all buses shall be driven by sustainable fuels in the Stockholm region - 50% of the buses already in 2011. These goals express the strong motivation to develop new solutions. Already in the 1980´s tests with hybrid buses were conducted. Starting in the beginning of the 1990´s Stockholm has developed the world’s largest fleet of buses driven by ethanol. 2004 the first biogas buses started to operate the streets of Stockholm.
The benefits of biogas
Biogas is a renewable fuel and part of the sustainable eco cycle. It comes from natural degradable processes of biological waste products, from households, restaurants, food industries and sewage treatment plants. Biogas has also been in practical use as vehicle fuel for many years.
Buses driven by biogas
Extended use of biogas for buses will lower the emissions, improve inner city air quality and limit the impacts of city buses on climate change. There are though some remaining issues to solve before biogas will be accepted and used as a fuel in a larger scale.
- The knowledge and acceptance of biogas as a fuel for public transport must spread. Today a common argument is that “biogas is good for warming or production of electricity”: the fact is that the use of biogas as a fuel is the most efficient way to use this resource.
- Enough capacity to produce biogas in an efficient way must be secured. The potential is high.
- Infrastructure for the distribution of biogas must be built or arranged. It is possible to use infrastructure built for fossil “natural gas” for biogas.
- Depots and buses and other operational facilities must be adapted to the new fuel.
The project: Baltic Biogas Bus
One of the cornerstones of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy is to make the region more environmentally sustainable.
The Baltic Biogas Bus project will stimulate cities and regions around the Baltic Sea to use biogas driven buses. The project aims to show cost effective solutions on biogas production as well as distribution and use in buses.
To secure the supply of biogas in the region biogas production technology will be studied and the regional potential for biogas production will be estimated.
Technological solutions for distribution of biogas and adaptation of bus depots will be analysed and an overview of regional infrastructure planning will be presented. To create a foundation for specifications of biogas bus requirements to present to bus producers operational experiences from use of biogas buses will be analysed and emissions from biogas driven buses verified.
Strategies, policies, financing and regulatory framework to facilitate biogas bus use will be studied. A Manual on “How to introduce biogas buses” will be created and guide the production of implementation plans for several cities.
Communication and information will characterise the project from start to finish. International target groups will be addressed by seminars, mid-term conferences and a final event. Regional seminars and workshops will be conducted, and permanent showrooms at each partner will offer theme sessions and different forms of communication events with stakeholders.
The comprehensive picture that will emerge as the result from the project will demonstrate economic and environmental benefits of biogas as a renewable fuel that contributes to make public transport an even stronger part of the solution of global environmental problems.