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Municipalities not rushing to replace biogas buses

Tartu city bus.
Tartu city bus. Source: Mana Kaasik

Estonia's municipalities are in no hurry to replace their fleets of buses running on biogas despite the European Union ruling local governments must use electric or hydrogen by 2035.

In Tallinn, 350 of its 542 buses run on biogas. The majority were purchased in the last two years.

Kaido Padari, head of Tallinn Transport (TLT), said the EU's plan will not bring major changes to Tallinn's bus fleet. He said the main goal is to ensure operational continuity.

"If you're asking today whether TLT would be willing to switch to hydrogen then, no, the price per kilometre would be very high. As to whether it would make sense from our point of view today to buy another biodiesel bus in the meantime – that is certainly worth considering. The higher the mix of energy units in Tallinn, the better it is for the Tallinn commuter," Padar told Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

All buses in Estonia's second-largest city Tartu run on biogas. Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm (Reform) also said hydrogen and electric buses would be a big additional cost for the city.

The council is not thinking about replacing buses at the moment. He thinks the transition to hydrogen or electric buses could take place in approximately 2039.

"Our current service contract will be valid until the end of June 2029 and then a new contract will start, and we will be able to conclude this new contract for buses running on biomethane if necessary. There is no definite need to switch to electric or hydrogen buses in 2029," said Tamm.

The Ministry of Climate has funded hydrogen pilot projects and hopes that it will also become more affordable in the future.

"While at the moment hydrogen is perhaps not a fuel of first choice and readily available, in the longer term we still hope that where alternatives are difficult to find, it will still be possible to introduce hydrogen into these modes of transport at a reasonable cost," said Kristi Klaas, deputy secretary general for Green Transition at the ministry.

Eesti Biogaas supplies biogas to several cities across the country. CEO Kristjan Stroom said they will continue to expand and hope the European Union will still extend the transition deadline.

"Our view is that there should be more biomethane plants and we want to expand our production. In that sense, we are certainly positive about the future," Stroom said.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

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