Utilities, carmakers launch campaign to cut US transportation energy use 50% by 2050

Source: By Robert Walton, Utility Dive • Posted: Friday, September 28, 2018

  • A diverse group of transportation stakeholders launched a new campaign pressing for significant advances in efficiency and vehicular systems, with a goal of slashing transportation energy consumption 50% by 2050, while simultaneously improving mobility.
  • Recommendations include improving efficiency for all vehicle types, accelerating inefficient vehicle turnover and incentivizing the rollout of charging infrastructure, all while ensuring the new transportation economy equitably benefits all groups.
  • Vehicle efficiency is not typically a controversial area, but in August the Trump administration proposed freezing automobile emission standards at 2020 levels, as well as pulling California’s authority to set its own standards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding three public hearings this week on the proposed freeze.

In the face of broad deregulation efforts by the Trump Administration, some companies are continuing to pursue energy and environmental goals that exceed federal requirements. Such is the case with a new initiative to increase efficiency in the U.S. transportation sector.

The 50×50 Commission was brought together by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) and the members include heavyweights across many industries: Audi, General Motors, Microsoft, National Grid and others. They’ve come together as the transportation sector begins to undergo a significant shift toward the broad adoption of electric vehicles.

ASE says the transportation sector currently accounts for about a third of U.S. energy consumption and recently topped electricity generation as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.

As more focus is placed on reducing those emissions, efficiency has become a key word in both the electric and transportation sectors.

National Grid US has “long recognized the important role electrification will play in the Northeast’s clean energy transition and its carbon emissions reduction efforts,” company president Dean Seavers said in a statement. This summer, the utility got approval from Rhode Island regulators to roll out electric vehicle programs, along with other measures to improve efficiency.

The 50×50 report’s recommendations include improving efficiency for all vehicle types, accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles and redesigning the Highway Trust Fund to “balance the growth of key markets and the need for equitably-funded infrastructure investments.”

The commission said the Highway Trust Fund “currently lacks sufficient resources to support critical infrastructure needs, and the ‘gas tax’ model is likely to become increasingly insufficient.”

Another recommendation calls for converting the qualified plug-in electric vehicle federal tax credit to a point-of-sale incentive, which the commission said would make it more “accessible.”

“Provided it can be consistently implemented without risk of disruption, Congress should modify the existing tax incentive,” the report suggested, by converting it into a rebate and developing a point-of-sale incentive.

Energy efficiency has typically been a bipartisan effort, but President Trump has pressed to slow or freeze many standards and rules. The proposal to freeze automobile emission standards at 2020 levels came over the objection of many — three influential utility groups lobbied the EPA to finalize tougher fuel standards that include electric vehicles as a compliance option.

Similarly, appliance standards have been slowed by the White House and there is some concern among advocates that President Trump could next turn his deregulation focus to light bulbs.