The European Union has made significant strides towards reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the use of alternative energy sources (especially in the more recent years). In order to facilitate this transition, the EU has implemented a series of regulations governing the development of alternative fuel infrastructure throughout member states. These regulations aim to create a more uniform and interconnected network of refueling stations for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and compressed natural gas vehicles, among others. By providing incentives for the construction of new refueling infrastructure, the EU hopes to encourage more consumers to adopt clean energy vehicles and play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While there are still challenges to be addressed, such as the cost of building and maintaining alternative fuel infrastructure, the EU's regulatory framework is a promising step towards a more sustainable transportation sector.
Just briefly looking at the initiatives proposed within the last few years, one can already tell how much in this regard is happening across the EU.
In December 2019, the European Commission launched its landmark Green Deal initiative with a mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport by 90%. Ambitiously aiming for climate neutrality through 2050, this far-reaching plan quickly gained momentum. In September 2020, the European Commission set a lofty goal - to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 55% by 2030 and ultimately strive for climate neutrality across Europe. On 21 April 2021, this ambition took one step closer to reality as Council and Parliament reached provisional political agreement on legislation which is now known as the historic 'European Climate Law'
The newest big announcement that has lately made headlines was the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).
Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR)
As released by the official EU sources by the end of March 2023, Council and Parliament of UE announced the preliminary decision of rules for electric and hydrogen refueling infrastructure for EVs. AFIR’s main objectives circulate around the deployment of more recharging and refuelling stations for alternative fuels.
The agreement also foresees that Member States and industry should develop a European-wide coordination system for the exchange of information between publicly accessible recharging points and among stakeholders. This will help to optimise the use of current recharging infrastructure and allow drivers to locate them more easily. The existing public recharging points in locations where they are not yet needed, may be deployed in other places with higher demand. In addition, Member States can give incentives to the industry and private investors to develop and roll out recharging infrastructure.
In terms of the main regulatory pieces as kept from the Commission’s proposal, we read as follows:
- “for recharging light electric vehicles, requirements for the total power capacity to be provided based on the size of the registered fleet and the trans-European network-transport (TEN-T) coverage requirements in 2025 and 2030
- for recharging electric heavy-duty vehicles and hydrogen refuelling, requirements for TEN-T coverage by 2030, starting in 2025 for electric heavy-duty vehicles
- for the supply of electricity to ships at the quayside in ports, requirements applicable from 2030”
(as stated in the press release by European Council)
During the talks and debates over the AFIR’s proposal, a few amends were however introduced, the European Council, again, lists them in the official press release. Below, the quote:
- “given the specific dynamics of the electric heavy-duty vehicles and the fact that the market is less developed than for light vehicles, a gradual process of infrastructure deployment is set to start in 2025 aiming at covering all TEN-T roads by 2030
- to maximise the efficiency of investments in hydrogen refuelling and to adapt to technological developments, the requirements focus on the deployment of gaseous hydrogen refuelling infrastructure with a particular attention to urban nodes and multimodal hubs
- to ensure that electric recharging requirements are compatible with the wide range of circumstances on the ground and that investments are proportionate to needs, the total power of electric recharging pools has been adapted and the maximum distance between recharging pools for road sections with very low traffic can be increased
- to make electric recharging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure easy to use, different payment and price-display options are available, while avoiding disproportionate investment, particularly in existing infrastructure
- regarding on-shore power supply in maritime ports, provisions are now fully consistent with the recently agreed FuelEU maritime proposal
- the text specifies the obligations of each stakeholder involved, provides for progress tracking, ensures users are properly informed and supplies the industry with common standards and technical specifications
- with a view to significant technological and market developments that will affect heavy-duty vehicles, the text of the provisional agreement includes a clause on a specific review in the short term, whereas the whole regulation will be also reviewed in the medium term”
In order for the preliminary agreement to come into effect, the exact details of the agreed text will still need to be formally approved by both co-legislators. Both sides are expected to sign off on the agreement shortly.
The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation will help to create a more connected and sustainable transportation system in the EU. By providing incentives for the development of alternative fuel infrastructure, AFIR promotes greater adoption of clean energy vehicles and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. While there are still challenges ahead, such as ensuring access to necessary funding and establishing standards for public charging infrastructure, the AFIR is a significant step towards achieving a more sustainable transport. The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation will also open up new opportunities for businesses to develop and deploy innovative solutions in the field of alternative fuel infrastructure. Companies will be encouraged to roll out cutting edge technologies.
AFIR - Update
In the press release published by the Council on the 25th of July, it was confirmed that AFIR has been officially adopted.
The new regulation will be published in the EU’s official journal after the summer. While it will enter into force the twentieth day after this publication, the new rules will apply from six months after the date of entry into force of the regulation.
In the Council’s press release we read about main deployment targets for 2025 and 2030. Those include charging network regulations for light and heavy vehicle transport, hydrogen refuelling as well as some energy-based regulations for airports and maritime ports.
Fit for 55 - the background for AFIR
Speaking about AFIR, we must take notice that it’s a part of a bigger initiative - Fit for 55.
The Fit for 55 package is an ambitious set of measures designed to ensure that the European Union meets its climate objectives and agreed between both lawmakers and industry. It provides a framework that allows for a transition towards greener policies in an equitable manner, safeguarding European competitiveness against third country operators while still leading on global action. This initiative establishes clear parameters for which businesses must operate if we are serious about achieving the long-term targets by midcentury.
The whole Fit for 55 package consists of many subsections, each regulating a different sphere of green activity.
Here is what’s in it:
- EU emissions trading system
The EU ETS is a major tool that helps the European Union reduce its emissions. Through this innovative market-based system, energy intensive industries and power generation sectors have seen significant improvements in carbon reduction—over 40% since 2005
- Carbon border adjustment mechanism
The EU's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism seeks to protect the hard-won progress against climate change within its borders from being undercut by imports of high-carbon goods or offshoring production. By ensuring compliance with international trade regulations, CBAM bolsters Europe in incentivizing greater ambition worldwide on reducing emissions and tackling global warming.
- Member states’ emissions reduction targets
The effort sharing regulation from 2018 sets yearly emission limits for member states regarding industries not regulated by other existing systems — such as emissions trading and land use management
- Emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry
This plan increases their land use and forestry regulation, aiming for a minimum of 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent net removals by 2030 on an EU-wide basis. Each member state has been given individualized targets as well in this effort to reduce emissions from activities such as deforestation and agricultural production practices.
- CO2 emission standards for cars and vans
The proposal sets forward ambitious emissions standards for cars and vans across the EU, aiming to reduce these emissions by 100% by 2035.
- Reducing methane emissions in the energy sector
This groundbreaking move is part of their Methane Strategy announced in 2020 and was followed closely by its Global Methane Pledge at COP26 last year where over 100 countries agreed to cut down methane levels by 30%. The proposal seeks to make tracking this progress easy as well as encourage greater reduction efforts
- Greener fuels in shipping
The FuelEU Maritime proposal is pressing for a reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of energy used on ships by up to 75% over the next three decades. While some progress has been made, maritime transport still relies almost solely on fossil fuels and continues to emit notable quantities of toxic pollutants into our atmosphere. In June 2022, Council members agreed with its general approach before successfully reaching an agreement between both parliaments this March (2023)
- Alternative fuels infrastructure
Aka the aforementioned AFIR.