Scotland: Low Carbon Transportation

titles_green transportation_4

Written for the Coursera (MOOC) Class – Turn Down the Heat, Why a 4oC Warmer World Must be Avoided‘ by the World Bank Group (May 2015).

1.0  Energy and Transportation

As part of the European Union, Scotland (UK Devolved Government) has agreed to a set of ambitious targets to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions in line with UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol and extended targets.

Scotland has significantly increased Renewable Energy capacity in the past decade, mainly through Wind Energy expansion.  Marine Energy (Tidal Stream and Wave) projects are being developed at the European Marine Energy Centre on the Orkney Islands, adjacent to the Pentland Firth.

Substituting energy supply at fixed locations such as homes and factories away from fossil fuel sources is progressing well.  However, the problem of displacing transport fossil fuel consumption is more challenging.

Liquid fuels such as petrol (gasoline) and diesel are well suited to powering vehicles, since they are a highly concentrated and portable form of energy.  We are heavily reliant on petroleum fuels for personal and public transportation as well as for freight.

Transforming the transport system away from fossil fuel reliance is the most difficult element in Scotland’s transition to a sustainable low-carbon society.

2.0  Scotland Energy Statistics

Scotland’s energy consumption has reduced over the past decade, due to energy efficiency measures and the global economic downturn.

CHART_Scot_Total Final Energy Cons by SECTOR 2005-2012

All sectors, Domestic (Residential), Industry (and Commerce) and Transport, have reduced energy consumption. [2.1]

CHART_Scot_Total Final Energy Cons 2005-2012

Petroleum is the single largest final energy fuel consumed.  Gas consumption remains lower, even when this ‘final energy’ quantity is added to the quantity of gas used in electricity generation.  Gas as a direct ‘final energy’ is used in direct heating of buildings and in non-generation industrial processes. [2.1]

CHART_Scot_Electricity Gen and Cons 2004-2013

Electricity generation in Scotland has increased with exported power, with consumption falling. [2.2]

CHART_Scot_Electricity Gen and Cons by FUEL 2004-2013

Fossil fuel (Coal and Gas) generation has fallen.  Nuclear generation is stable in recent years.  Renewable electricity has increased dramatically. [2.2]

CHART_Scot_Renew Energy Production 2004-2013

Scotland has a tradition of small scale hydro electricity production which varies with rainfall.  Wind energy has seen a dramatic (1300%) increase between 2004 and 2013, and now accounts for 34% of consumption. [2.3]

This expansion is still progressing with 7.2 GW installed and a further 12.6 GW in planning or construction. [2.4]   Over the next few years, renewable energy could account for 90% of electricity consumption.

CHART_Scot Renew Cap PLANNING 2014

3.0  Scotland CO2 Emissions

CHART_Scot_CO2 Emissions inc Imports 1998-2012

The dominant greenhouse gas CO2 is measured both from direct emissions in Scotland’s production (for local consumption) and embedded CO2 from imported goods. [3.1]

CHART_Scot_CO2 Emissions Transport 1990-2012

Although the overall trend in CO2 emissions is falling (some due to economic downturn), transportation emissions are fairly static.  [3.1]

CHART_LINE_Scot_CO2 Emissions Transport 1990-2011

The vast majority of transport sector emissions are from road travel. [3.2]

CHART_LINE_Scot_CO2 Emissions Road Transport 1990-2011

Passenger cars (combined with light-duty vehicles) account for the vast majority of emissions, and are representative of single occupancy mode journeys.  This is the most inefficient form of transportation. [3.3]

PIE_Scot Transp CO2 2011

4.0  Road Transport Fleet

CHART_Scot_Road Vehicles 1993-2013

The size of the Scottish road vehicle fleet has steadily increased from the early 1990’s, with a flattening-off from 2008. [4.1]

PIE_Scot Road Fleet 2013

The vast majority of road vehicles in Scotland are cars and small vans (private and light goods).

CHART_Scot_Petroleum Cons SECTOR 2005-2012

Approximately 58% of petroleum is consumed by road transportation and only 1% by the rail network in Scotland. [2.1]

5.0  Transport Scotland (Scottish Government)  

The Scottish government transport department is investing time consulting with the community and transportation stakeholders to find a solution in decarbonising the transport network.

The biggest transportation source of CO2 emissions is the petroleum fuelled road network.

The vision of the future for a low-carbon road system is set out in ‘Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles’. [5.1]

Since cities are the source of 80% of worldwide GHG emissions, with high population densities, it makes sense to tackle air pollution from city vehicles as a priority. [5.1]

Electrified mass transit systems such as trams, light railways, underground rail, and electric busses are economically feasible in urban areas.  Edinburgh (capital city) opened a new tram network in 2014. [5.2]

Plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from road vehicles by 2050:

  • Milestone Target: 50% zero-emission vehicles by 2030
  • Milestone Target: 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2050

CHART_Uptake of EVs 2050

A report by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) set out UK targets for electric vehicle uptake in 2013. [5.3]


Barriers to creation of Electric Vehicle Network:

  • High cost of Electric Vehicles (relative to conventional)
  • Limited EV Range
  • Availability of Recharge Infrastructure
  • Battery Life
  • Battery Disposal
  • Increased Electricity Demand

Currently there is a UK Government scheme in place to offset the high cost of new EVs.  This plug-in car grant scheme offers 25% (£5,000 max) for cars, and 20% (£8,000 max) vans. [5.3]

As EV sales develop and the technology matures, prices should fall to the level of conventional vehicles.

Similarly, recharge point infrastructure is expected to grow with vehicle sales.  Government support is helping roll out facilities to support early adopters.

Battery range and life are being developed to improve both aspects, with year on year improvements in the technology.  The materials contained in the battery can be recycled at the end of life. [5.4]

Switching cars from petroleum to electric power will put extra demands on the electricity network.  However, with expansion of renewable energy and grid storage, there should be sufficient capacity.

Since most of the battery charging will take place through the night, this will level out demand, reducing the need for energy storage capacity.  In some scenarios with smart grids, the network of plugged-in vehicles can act as a storage buffer for a limited portion of charge. [5.5]

Although the Scottish government is opposed to replacing the two current nuclear power stations in Scotland, as they are decommissioned in the next decade, this option may be revisited if electric grid generation capacity is too low. [5.6]

6.0  Future Low-Carbon Society

If the petroleum road vehicle network can be replaced satisfactorily by electric vehicles on an expanded grid, I am confident that the other carbon intensive elements of our economy can be neutralised.

Developments on all energy fronts over the next few decades will determine whether we can as a global community avert the worst effects of global warming and avoid dangerous levels of  climate change.

Let’s stay well below 4oC and keep the Heat Turned Down.


[2.1] UK Gov, Sub-national total final energy consumption statistics: 2005 – 2012 

[2.2] UK Gov, Electricity generation and supply figures for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, 2004 to 2013 

[2.3] Scot Gov, Energy in Scotland Fact Sheet 2015 

[2.4] Scot Gov, Energy Statistics for Scotland March 2015, Scottish Government 

[3.1] Scot Gov, Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998-2012. Data Tables and Charts [XLSX, 3796.0 kb: 13 Apr 2015]

[3.2] Scot Gov, Scotland’s Carbon Footprint 1998 – 2012, Scottish Government 

[3.3] UK Gov, Greenhouse Gas Inventories Eng Scot Wales N Ire 1990 – 2012 

[4.1] Scot Gov, Transport Scotland, Scottish Transport Statistics No 31: 2012 Edition 

[5.1] Scot Gov, Transport Scotland, Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles 

[5.2] Edinburgh City, The Tram Project 

[5.3] Royal Automobile Club, Powering Ahead – The Future of Low-Carbon Cars and Fuels 

[5.4] Scientific American, When an Electric Car Dies, What Will Happen to the Battery?  

[5.5] SmartGrid.Gov, Enabling a Charging Infrastructure for PEVs 

[5.6] The Guardian, Scottish government signals end to nuclear power opposition

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