Australia must forge a new path to sustainability – pv magazine Australia

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Transport accounts for nearly 20% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions and Schneider Electric’s Sam Yfantis believes that decarbonising the country’s public transport must be a priority to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and steer the Australia from its dependence on fossil fuels.

Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 must shape how we get back on the road after COVID-19.

As the nation is currently emerging from lockdown in the context of COP26, now is the perfect time to implement a new approach to urban transportation. In particular, a plan to address Australia’s car dependency and a clear timetable for phasing out fossil fuels on our roads are needed.

Before COVID, transport was the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia (96 MtCO2e per year). Today, that figure is down 13.2%.

If we are to play our part in the crucial global energy transition, we must embrace electric mass transport such as electric buses to help mitigate a projected 60% increase in CO2 emissions from transport by 2050.

The benefits of adopting the e-bus are considerable, representing a saving of 60 tons of CO2 per year for a single e-bus traveling 200 kilometers per day.

Plus, there are public health benefits with cancer, asthma and other health problems caused by car pollution killing an estimated 6,503 people in New South Wales alone every year. These emissions would be completely eliminated in cities equipped with electric vehicles.

There are some key areas within government, industry and public spheres that can ensure the fastest possible delivery of an end-to-end sustainable public transport system in our cities.

First, it is imperative that we all start, together, now. The process of decommissioning existing infrastructure and installing new electrical options can take up to 20-30 years to implement.

Adopting electric buses would lead to significant reductions in emissions.

Image: BCC

It starts with federal and state governments leading the way in giving the market confidence to invest in these technologies. Mandating e-buses nationwide by 2030 is a must and is already progressing at state level in New South Wales.

Second, the ability to fund these initiatives plays an important role in timely implementation. Suppliers and governments must work together to ensure that investment cycles align with key development milestones. It is essential to evolve the current capex and opex business models to put more emphasis on sustainability.

Third, the transition economy from reliance on fossil fuel industries must extend to the local workforce through job creation at every stage of the process. Rather than sourcing technology from overseas, the renewable energy sector needs to create new job opportunities in Australia, including by manufacturing equipment and components locally. To be truly effective, this end-to-end approach must also be delivered without harming the environment, from material sourcing to production and transportation methods.

Finally, we need to create a long-term plan to dismantle the current infrastructure, in favor of recycling and reusing as many materials as possible to avoid landfilling.

On the consumer side, the public is increasingly interested in making greener personal choices. This should be facilitated by providing more opportunities, starting with better access to public transport. Ensuring reliability is essential and decisions must be made regarding the power supply of electric bus fleets. A mix of charging stations and EV technology at bus depots for longer journeys and just-in-time charging will help manage electrical needs and efficiency.

The deployment of charging infrastructure will be key to the transition.

Picture: VDL

To understand and predict consumer behavior, data and analytics must play a much larger role in business operations, enabling more streamlined services to be delivered and maintained with disruption. Improved transport services, provided by public and private companies, will encourage people to avoid traveling by car by making it easier to plan trips and use public transport systems.

For private transport, the longer-term opportunity of big data is not only to enable drivers to better understand and plan road conditions, but also to help the traffic system manage itself with intelligent traffic lights directing flow as needed to avoid traffic jams.

In addition to big data, microgrids will decentralize electricity distribution. So, rather than everyone being connected to a single grid or electricity supply, we have many smaller sources, or micro-grids. This means that if one part of the system fails, the others remain operational.

To effectively contribute to a more sustainable future, we need to take more action now, with governments, businesses and industry acting collectively and transitioning the workforce to support electric mobility and the public ditching their cars for greener options.

It’s a long road that will take decades to travel and it starts with all of us on board the e-bus towards a more sustainable future today.

Author: Sam Yfantis, Schneider Electric, Infrastructure Segment Director

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of photo magazine.

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