Energy consumption in the transport sector is still strongly dominated by oil products.

Globally, energy consumption in the transport sector accounts for around 30% of total energy consumption (IEA, 2018). The share is slightly lower in the Netherlands. Of all forms of transport, road transport with cars, trucks and buses being used to transport passengers, goods and animals accounts for most of the energy consumed. So far, most private vehicles on the road are powered by an internal combustion engine and use oil products, such as gasoline and diesel. Other oil products, such as fuel oil and kerosene, are also dominant in other important modes of transport, namely shipping and aviation.

Climate change and air quality are important drivers for policies that try to make the transport sector carbon-free.

Climate change and air quality are two major drivers for reducing the carbon footprint of transport. Transport policy has played an important role in shaping the energy mix for transport purposes in the EU member states, including the Netherlands. Policy measures have focused on the setting of targets and obligations for emission reductions, fiscal incentives, fuel efficiency rules and regulations, stimulation of technology development, and promotion of alternative fuels. In the context of EU legislation, the Netherlands is committed to implementing stricter CO2 emission requirements for road transport. The Netherlands is also in favor of stricter international requirements for shipping and aviation emissions. National policy also targets directly energy consumption in transport. For example, the additional tax for private use of a company car is lower for electric cars than for cars that run on petrol or diesel. Emission-free zones are planned. There are also other measures, such as public charging points and environmental zones. With an environmental zone (low emission zone), Dutch municipalities can exclude particular types of cars, vans and lorries.

Making transport more sustainable will have major consequences for the structure of the energy system.

The electrification of transport, e.g. road passenger transport, is seen as an important means for reducing the carbon emissions in the transport sector. Electrification entails a large increase in electricity demand, and subsequently, the current network infrastructure needs to be strengthened in various ways. Electricity stored in car batteries can play a role as a source of flexibility. The number of electric cars in the Netherlands has increased significantly. 

Source: RVO, 2019.

In addition to the drastic changes that are required for electrification of transport applications in road traffic, there are also transport applications that are less easily electrified. Consider, for example, air, shipping and energy-intensive road traffic. Alternative solutions must be found for these applications, such as hydrogen or sustainable biofuels. As long as fully sustainable energy technology is not used everywhere in transport, energy efficiency and replacing polluting fuels with less polluting forms of transport can also help to reduce carbon emissions (for example, shift from flights to train journeys, shift from individual to public transport).  

From a technical point of view, sustainability is sometimes difficult. However, the problem also has an important political dimension. Emissions from international aviation and shipping are not covered by national regulations. International coordination is therefore required to limit these emissions if existing technologies are not replaced by renewable energy through market forces.

Changing demand patterns play a key role in changing the transport fuel mix.

Societal trends have an impact on consumer preferences, new government policies, and measures to promote cleaner forms of transport. For example, urbanization increases awareness of pollution and the demand for clean air and noise reduction. New mobility concepts are being devised by transport providers as a result of ICT developments. Consumer preferences with regard to car ownership are changing, partly prompted by policy advice on fuel efficiency, leading to a shift towards more energy-efficient cars. Changing rules and regulations regarding emissions and efficiency are also a powerful driver for changes in energy consumption patterns or technology choice.