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What is technology neutrality?

  • GreenChem
  • Legislation

Premise

In 2021, 7 EU country leaders wrote a letter addressing the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. In this, they mentioned the importance of following the technology neutrality principle when aiming to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

We call on the European Commission to ensure that the EU energy and climate policy accommodates all paths to climate neutrality according to the technology neutrality principle. In this context, all available and future zero and low-emission technologies have to be treated equally within all policies, including taxonomy of sustainable investments, aiming at achieving climate neutrality by 2050.” (Message: 7 EU leaders urge support for nuclear : Perspectives – World Nuclear News (world-nuclear-news.org)

So, what is Technology Neutrality?

Technological neutrality refers to “the freedom of individuals and organizations to choose the most appropriate technology adequate to their needs and requirements for development, acquisition, use or commercialization, without knowledge dependencies involved as information or data”.

In 1999, the European Commission used for the first time the principle of technological neutrality as a regulatory principle in an official document on the revision of the regulatory framework for electronic communications. It is obvious that the struggle for technological neutrality is not a recent and passing issue, but a necessity for the correct development of innovation. The principle consolidation of technological neutrality occurred with Directive 2009/140/EC, which modified previous executives. A couple of years later, in November 2011 the European Parliament approved the resolution of November 17, 2011 on the open internet and the neutrality net in Europe. This resolution was a wake-up call for the European institutions and their Member States to realize the importance of technological neutrality and its regulation, since otherwise the network would be overloaded with information, there would be cuts and blockages in the Internet service and the right to neutrality would be violated.

Technology Neutrality in Transportation industry.

While internal combustion engines are the currently dominant propulsion technology in the transport sector, there are various alternative propulsion and fuel technologies that were developed. However, not all of these technologies are ready for widespread adoption, and each has its own advantages and drawbacks. A key task for policymakers is to establish a regulatory framework that sets incentives for innovation while also enabling the effective and efficient decarbonization of the transport sector.

In current policy debates, business leaders, academics, and policymakers often cite “technological neutrality” as an important criterion that should inform the design of regulatory instruments. The principle of technological neutrality dictates that policymakers should not “pick winners” in the competition between alternative technologies; rather, market mechanisms should determine which technologies achieve broad adoption, for this will ensure the most cost-effective solutions. An emissions trading system that encompasses all economic sectors is typically cited as an example of technologically neutral regulation. In a narrower transport policy context, the principle of technological neutrality is regularly invoked in debates surrounding CO2 fleet limits for cars, trucks, and light commercial vehicles.

Internal combustion engines are still currently the dominant propulsion technology in the transport sector.

The current picture in Europe.

Here is the state of the current EU vehicle fleet: (Report – Vehicles in use, Europe 2023 – ACEA – European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association):

  1. Age: The average age for a light commercial vehicle in the European Union is 12 years. In the period between 2017 and 2021, the total number of light commercial vehicles in the European Union has been increasing, however slightly, by 1.7% on average.
    For Medium and heavy commercial vehicles, the numbers are respectively 14.2 years and 3.2% growth rate on average.
    For buses, 12,7 years and 1,8% growth. Although buses only accounts for 1,9% of the total 36,7m vehicles in European Union in 2021, the number of buses in use are still growing.
    (With the Euro 7 still in its pipeline, it could be useful to check which emission standards your vehicle complies with, and whether you are due for an upgrade. Here is a general guide to determine which Euro’s emission standards are applied to newly registered vehicles. (Euro 1 to Euro 6 – find out your vehicle’s emissions standard | RAC Drive)
  2. Fuel Type: Regarding the type of fuels these vehicles consume, 91% of all light commercial vehicles, 96,4% of all medium and heavy commercial vehicles and 92,5% of all buses in the European Union run on diesel. So, it can be safely said that all of Europe’s transporting and logistical activities rest on diesel. Internal Combustion Engines will not be eliminated any time soon.
  3. Fleet size: The total of all commercial vehicles and buses in Europe up until 2021 was 36,7 million. 6,4 million of which are medium and heavy commercial vehicles, up 3,2% compared to 2020.

Internal Combustion Engines will not be eliminated any time soon, it is just not realistic and cost-efficient.

Conclusion:

All technologies were created to solve a problem in a certain light, and when placed under a different setting it might or might not be effective. Given the existence of current market forces and various development path dependencies, the combustion engine will remain as the dominant propulsion technology in a short to medium term, particularly in specific sectors of transport activities and vehicles categories.

As a whole, we should consider all technologies with an open mind, staying as neutral as possible while concentrating in the one goal that matters: to innovate and strive towards climate neutrality.

Together, let’s make the environment cleaner.

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