On Monday, EU climate ministers are set to discuss whether to end the production of new biomethane-powered urban buses by 2030. Estonia wants to postpone the deadline by at least five years.
Unlike many Western European countries, where diesel-fueled buses have been replaced by electric ones, Estonia's bus fleet relies heavily on those run on biomethane. According to the Estonian, a quarter of the buses used to provide the country's public transport are fueled with biomethane.
This is why Estonia, along with seven or eight other EU Member States, is among those requesting that biomethane buses can continue to be produced after 2030. Environment and climate ministers will decide on the EU Council's position on the matter during Monday's Environment Council. An agreement will then have to be reached with the European Parliament.
Kristi Klaas, undersecretary for green transition at the Estonian Ministry of Climate, said it was realistic for EU Member States to agree on a compromise whereby the ban would be postponed by five years, to 2035.
"This is in fact what many other countries, especially those with smaller municipalities, are proposing, to allow for a longer transition period to other alternative forms of emissions. According to the directive, zero-emission buses are electric vehicles that run on batteries, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicles," Klaas said.
Kersten Kattai, head of the Automobile Companies Association, said that a large number of biomethane buses are currently being used in Estonia for public transport, largely because they are both environmentally friendly and cheaper than electric buses. She added that while a regular diesel-fueled bus costs around €200,000, a biomethane bus costs a tenth of that price, while an electric bus costs twice as much.
"Biogas is produced from waste that otherwise produces emissions. It is captured, turned into gas and then used as a fuel in the transport sector. In fact, on the one hand, we are reducing the emissions from the transport sector that would be generated by burning diesel. And, on the other hand, we are cutting down the emissions that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere. That is where the negative carbon emissions comes from," said Kattai.
Kristi Klaas said that the Estonian state has made significant investments in biomethane production and the purchase of gas buses, and hopes that the deadline will be postponed in order for there to be a more reasonable payback period on those investments.
In Tartu, all city buses run on biomethane, while in Tallinn around two thirds do.
Kaido Padar, head of Tallinn City Transport, said that the plan is to have all city buses in the capital running on biomethane by the beginning of 2025 at the latest. At the same time, a debate is also ongoing regarding whether to shift the focus away from biomethane buses in the longer term.
"We are discussing what our next form of rolling stock will be and whether it will be only electric buses. There has also been talk of biodiesel, and only recently we tested a hydrogen bus, which we think will be on the streets of Tallinn in around ten years. The main goal we have set ourselves when it comes to urban transport in Tallinn is that we have to have sustainability," said Padar.
Editor: Michael Cole