Transport - the new renewables?


In broad terms recent developments in transport law and policy, particularly within the EU and within various EU Member States, bear a remarkable resemblance to the initial stages of the law and policy that lead to the boom in modern renewables. Of course whilst the transport and energy sectors are very different, if we look back at the drivers that combined to stimulate the remarkable growth in renewables and apply some of the conceptual thinking and lessons from that growth to the transport sector, it is easy to see the potential for remarkable opportunities in the transport sector.

Reading across: from renewables to transport

Combination of drivers

Importantly the development of renewables was not driven by a single policy concept. There was a combination of large issues at play, prime amongst which were climate change and energy security/energy mix.

The same (if not more so) is at play in terms of transport. Here the number of drivers include the prime drivers for renewables plus several others. The drivers include:

  • Climate change. As with the energy sector, the transport sector is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (estimated at approximately 25% of EU CO2 emissions).
  • Energy dependency. Most segments (but not all) of the transport sector are currently highly dependent on oil for fuel.
  • Health risks. Over the last few years a very considerable body of evidence indicating links between transport emissions (non C02) and a wide array of health issues potentially impacting large numbers of people has been steadily emerging. This has become an increasingly significant driver.
  • Impacts on GDP and productivity. Poor and inefficient parts of the current transport infrastructure have for some time, but now increasingly, been identified as a cause of significant negative impacts on national economies and productivity generally.

Development of Alternatives

The growth in renewables included the use of a number of alternative clean (or cleaner) technologies. This applies equally to transport. Several alternative engines and alternative fuels are being developed to address a number of the drivers set out above.

Infrastructure, supporting technologies and incentives

Just as renewables, decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures have given rise to developments in energy infrastructure, incentives and increasing application of ICT, this looks likely also to be the case in transport. Transport infrastructure per se is a clear issue. The potential use of ICT and other developments in supporting technology in transport have the potential to be very interesting.

Developments in incentives for the transport sector have a very long way to travel to become comparable with renewables. However not unlike the very early days of renewables, different models addressing various issues are being developed in various jurisdictions. These too are likely to be very interesting.


Europe was primarily the origin of the modern renewables sector. Likewise looking at recent transport law and policy developments arising in Europe we suspect that Europe will be at the forefront of very significant developments in the transport sector.

Further articles

Our intention is to produce a number of articles on various aspects of recent law and policy which is likely to shape the future of the transport sector. These will be published on this site.