Having lived in Oslo for a full year now, I am well and truly used to walking around the city among electric vehicles. They’re extremely common; peering outside my window right now I can see a BMW i3, a shiny new Nissan Leaf, and a Tesla Model 3. They’re all charged up using the extremely-low-emissions Norwegian electrical grid, almost entirely hydro power with some wind and gas generation.
Norway is also a global leader in the extraction and sale of fossil fuels. Mostly oil, with some gas, the country’s leaders plan to continue exploring for, extracting and selling these fossil fuels well into the future. And the emissions that stem from these activities once these fuels are burned massively outweigh emissions from within the borders of Norway:
The problem is double-barreled – the oil and gas extraction industry also increases emissions within the country, because these extraction processes are themselves emissions intensive, even before any fossil fuels are combusted in the bellies of combustion engine vehicles:
These are two conflicting stories. Movement here in Oslo, and in Norway in general, is among the cleanest in the world. But the country still relies heavily on selling fossil fuels, with a big emissions impact both domestically and overseas.
EVs are set for a global rise – but it needs to be quicker
Recently, Norwegian hydro giant Statkraft hosted the Nordic launch of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)’s ‘Electric Vehicle Outlook (EVO) 2020’, summarising both the impacts of COVID-19 on transport and the near-future prospects for transition in transport.
The core message of BNEF’s EVO is that peak combustion came and went, and we barely noticed.
“Sales of internal combustion passenger vehicles peaked in 2017 and are in permanent decline”, the report states. COVID-19 is predicted to impact all vehicle sales, but “EV sales will drop less, and come back faster”, said BNEF’s Colin McKerracher, the lead author on the report.
EVs will reach price parity in the mid 2020s (a long-held prediction that may be surpassed well prior). China and Europe are pulling ahead of the US, both with massive contributions to decarbonisation of transport. Already, 16% of the world’s bus fleet has been converted to electricity – that is almost entirely due to China.
BNEF – true to form – is bullishly optimistic about change. “It goes slow and then it goes fast”, said McKerracher, of Norway’s successful government incentivisation of electric vehicles, resulting in a rise to nearly 60% of new sales fully electric by the end of 2019.
Pulling all the projection together, there is a simple and fascinating conclusion. “Oil demand from passenger vehicles has already peaked in our forecast was another surprising conclusion, perhaps a controversial one”, said McKerracher.
They project that overall oil demand for all road transport (including things like large trucks) is set to peak in 2031. And pointing out that all of these trends are insufficient…