Diverging from reducing trends of GHG emissions seen in other industries in the EU, transport-related emissions have steadily increased and subsequently become more pronounced. Transport-related emissions account for a considerable amount of the EU’s total GHG emissions, amounting to 22%, excluding shipping and aviation. In Spain, the situation worsens, with transport emitting 82.5 million tons of CO2 in 2019 or 27% of total domestic GHG emissions, making the transport sector the worst emitter in Spain by a significant margin, proceeded by the energy-producing industry making up 19% of total emissions.
Being a significant polluter and consequently hampering climate obligations, the EU has begun efforts to phase out CO2-emitting vehicles, with a virtual ban set for 2035. Binding annual emissions reduction targets, ‘effort-sharing’ legislation, has been pushed forward that aims to cut member states’ non-ETS emissions by 23%, or at least 14% of the energy consumed by the transport sector fueled by renewable energy by 2030. Pertinent to the transport sector, directive EU 2019/1161 has set Spain a minimum threshold of meeting at least 36.3% of their total LDV (Light Duty Vehicle) fleet exhibiting zero tailpipe emissions by 2025.
Exceeding its obligations, Spain’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (NECP) has set the ambitious target of reducing its non-ETS (Emissions Trading System) emissions by a remarkable 39% by 2030 relative to its 1990 level, significantly exceeding the 23% emissions reduction target. According to its comprehensive NECP framework, the impressive margin will be fulfilled by electrifying its predominantly fossil-fuel-intensive fleet. Ultimately, Spain’s NECP envisages a completely decarbonized transportation system by 2050.
A polluting passenger fleet offers a considerable carbon-cutting opportunity
The bulk of Spain’s 29,076,882 passenger car fleet is relatively old, exhibiting an average age of 13.8 years, only two years older than the EU average but much older than the 7-year-old average age of passenger cars seen in the UK, France, and Germany. The fleet remains highly fossil fuel dependent, with 48% diesel operated and 46.6% petroleum. The older population of passenger cars is predominantly certified with a Spanish B label, the equivalent of a 2006 petroleum EURO 3 or diesel Euro 4 label, carrying fewer emitting restrictions and consequently heavy polluting.
The Spanish central government has therefore identified extensive electronification of its passenger fleet as a straightforward measure in achieving considerable reductions in co2 emissions. Spain’s NECP has explicitly reiterated and committed to introducing 5 million electric vehicles (including motorcycles, vans, and busses) by 2030, which would permit meeting its incredible ambitious 39% reduction in non-ETS emissions by 2030 (non-ETS emissions are emissions that don’t fall under the EU’s emissions trading system, such as vehicle emissions). To facilitate the process, under the MOVES III plan (an initiative encouraging electric mobility), the central government has set-aside €400 million, with the opportunity of a further €800 million extension, directed at subsidizing EV purchases, EV public charger development, and financing road tax exceptions for EV’s.
There are approximately 188,477 EVs on the road in Spain, which implies a rapid electronification in the coming years to accommodate the 5 million vehicle target, provoking substantial increases in energy demand. Reassuringly, models have suggested that the massive influx of electricity demand from large-scale EV penetration would be almost entirely covered by Spain’s current and projected renewable energy systems, most notably wind infrastructure, until 2026, after that satisfied by photovoltaic solar plants, with nearly the entire stock of new EVs covered by renewable energy by 2028.
Electrifying aspirations undermined by policy miscalculations
Despite the plan and its promising outcomes catalyzing accelerated EV production in Spain, the transition is still in its early infancy, with merely 0.11% and 0.99% of the national passenger fleet powered by Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, respectively, placing Spain at a dismal 17th out of 29th place in the EV market share in the EU. Public uptake of EVs also remains sluggish, with only 48,000 units sold by August this year, expected to miss the 2022 target of at least 120,000 units.
Given Spain’s poor charging infrastructure, eye-watering slow EV uptake comes as no surprise. As it is, Spain boasts just 14,000 charging points or around 250 per million inhabitants, with 80% of chargers also technically limited by exhibiting the slowest charging technology. Relative to other EU nations, the Netherlands comes on top with 5,000 per million inhabitants and Germany and the UK with about 700, with the EU average exceeding 600. To attain the ambitious 5 million EV target by 2030, an accelerated 10-fold and 30-fold addition of public chargers by 2025 and 2030, respectively, will be needed.
Electrifying a great deal of Spain’s LDV fleet will substantially contribute to decarbonizing the economy, with models projecting that a 20 million EV fleet in 2050 would prevent up to 20mt CO2eq from entering the atmosphere. However, for Spain to achieve this seemingly full-proof lunge to decarbonize transport, serious consideration needs to be paid to identifying appropriate pathways to accelerate public uptake of EVs and commissioning public chargers to build the foundations to foster its ambitions.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Spain Country Manager Sean Lewis