Report leads the way to cleaner transport
GREEN NEWS/ The Department of Trade and Industry has compiled a study looking at creating policies for a greener transport environment, writes Mark Smyth
After years of questioning exactly what is being done to get people into green vehicles and public transport solutions, it seems that the government has finally woken up.
This week, a report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry came across our desk. Titled Strategy for Policy Direction: Promoting Green Road Transport Technologies in SA, the report was compiled by EcoMetrix Africa.
It assessed every element of what is being done and what is holding things back.
We have been assured that the new roadmap has the support of a number of agencies, not least of which are the departments of trade and industry, transport and environmental affairs. Crucially, it is unknown how much support the Treasury is giving the plan, with its support being vital to remove barriers and provide incentives.
In 2012, the South African government reasserted its commitment to the Global Climate Agreement at the COP21 in Paris. Key to achieving the goals of the agreement are significant changes to transportation.
The report highlights the options that can be adopted under the ASI (avoiding, shifting and improving) model.
Avoiding and shifting are about avoiding the need to use private vehicles through urban development incorporating residential and commercial areas in close proximity.
Shifting means getting people out of their private vehicles and into public transport, but the report focuses on improving — creating policies around electric vehicles (EVs), compressed natural gas and biofuel blending.
The report states a policy framework is needed that creates drivers and enablers and removes barriers.
There are few direct incentives to go green.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
“A variety of gaps and or areas of misalignment exist within legislatory framework that hamper growth in the industry,” the report states. It adds that the current overall transport policy framework is geared towards the incumbents of diesel and petrol and driven by the road transport industry.
“A level playing field, or even a playing field preferential to emerging green transport technologies, needs to be created,” the report states.
Regarding EVs, the playing field is anything but level. Just more than 300 EVs have been sold in SA. Antiquated legislation means that EVs from Europe attract a higher duty level than most other vehicles. Often they are placed into the luxury vehicle category. This means they are priced way beyond comparably-sized vehicles.
The report reads this is just one area in which people are disincentivised to go green. Charging infrastructure is another area that needs to addressed, with few public charging points available, although there are plans by the private sector to improve this situation, particularly on major arteries such as the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban.
In many other parts of the world, private motorists and industry have been encouraged to go green through direct and tax incentives. Some governments provide high rebates on EVs. SA has no incentive programme, making the Treasury pivotal in any plan.
The report makes clear recommendations for all sectors of society. It suggests that the government procure more EVs and only purchase the top three most fuel-efficient models.
It recommends tax incentives for those who switch to alternative-fuel vehicles and emphasises that annual vehicle taxation should be based on a vehicle’s emission standard.
It also recommends at least 10% of public transport bus fleets be converted to gas.
Attractive financing options should be provided to minibus taxi owners to convert to dualfuel vehicles such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas.
The report also calls for incentives for the manufacturing industry, including incentives for those producing EV vehicles and batteries as well as those involved in alternative fuels.
Implats and Anglo-American, with various agencies, are pushing for SA to become a global leader in fuel-cell technology, mainly because of the country’s strong position in the platinum industry, platinum being an essential component in fuel cells.
Fuel companies such as Sasol are encouraged to increase the supply of CNG, but a longstanding stumbling block regarding fuel quality exists. The report reads that regulations should be created that force refineries to meet new standards for cleaner fossil fuels.
It is all well and good looking at alternatives, but with millions of petrol and diesel vehicles on the roads, providing cleaner fuels is essential to achieving climate change targets.
A number of projects are under way in SA, 18 of which relate to EVs including vehicle production and charging infrastructure, 12 involve gas vehicles and five are bioethanol or biodiesel projects.
Many of these have huge potential to change the way green transport is viewed. With the Department of Trade and Industry finally recognising barriers and working to get all stakeholders to work together, perhaps SA has the potential to get on the green road.
High capital costs and very little infrastructure are hampering the uptake of electric vehicles in SA. Left: Fuel-cell buses are running in many countries and have potential in this country.
Companies such as Implats are looking to make SA a global leader in fuel-cell technology but require a level playing field.