Industry Stakeholders and Experts discuss Freight Decarbonization in India with ZET pilot

The Smart Freight Centre (SFC) recently organized a groundbreaking roundtable on Freight Decarbonization in India, bringing together industry leaders, government representatives and other supply chain experts. Christoph Wolff, CEO of SFC, set the tone by highlighting the organization’s global achievements in Emissions Accounting and Zero Emission Trucks (ZET) adoption under the Freight Electrification Coalition initiative.

The discussions delved into the close collaboration between SFC and the global freight industry, emphasizing activities with major shippers, Logistics Service Providers (LSPs), and carriers. Noteworthy was the presentation on the SFC India program, specifically the Niti Aayog’s e-FAST platform, aiming to translate aggregated demand into fundable ZET pilots on select corridors.

The comprehensive event provided a roadmap for India’s freight sector towards sustainable and decarbonized logistics, addressing key questions on emissions accounting and financing. Industry stakeholders, including The Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation, expressed commitment to supporting climate initiatives.

The event showcased a plethora of strategic insights and takeaways to propel India’s logistics sector towards sustainable and efficient practices. A few of them are mentioned below

The various government representatives present at the roundtable talked about the Government of India’s vision for freight efficiency improvement under the Gati Shakti Master Plan, which provides an opportunity for pro-active action on freight decarbonization. They collectively remarked that proactive measures leveraging new-age technologies align intending to reduce logistics costs in proportion to GDP.

Energy efficiency improvements are crucial for enhancing freight economics, given that energy (fuel) cost constitutes the largest component in overall freight activity cost. Clean fuel and vehicle technologies, especially in the medium and heavy-duty segments, have a significant impact on reducing GHG emissions from freight activities.

BEVs exhibit maximum emission reduction potential when powered by renewable energy sources. BEVs offer the best Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) scenario, outperforming Fuel Cell Vehicles by 20-25% for heavy-duty segments by 2030.

Initiatives like e-FAST present an opportunity for India to establish leadership in developing a global ecosystem for Green Freight. Investments in green logistics infrastructure, particularly for high-volume freight corridors, align with future-proofing strategies.

In that direction, it was conferred that the Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) addresses the challenge of data availability for freight efficiency improvement and supports collaborative freight decarbonization programs.

Emissions accounting is a crucial step, and a standardized framework with government guidance is essential. A national carbon market can level the playing field between Zero Emission Trucks (ZETs) and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Trucks.

The service industry contributes to emissions accounting solutions, with many adopting SFC’s GLEC framework. Financing ZET pilots under e-FAST is an expectation, but some organizations are ready to manage finances independently, with product availability being a major concern.

Product pipeline visibility and collaboration between OEMs, Shippers, and LSPs are critical barriers for ZET adoption. Collaboration platforms and transparency on individual plans and actions are key enablers for the success of ZET initiatives in India.

Sumita Dawra, Special Secretary, DPIIT, Govt. of India, made a presentation on the green infrastructure encompassing green warehousing, green ports, and highlighted the GIS-enabled platform for the PM Gati Shakti initiative, in addition to the role of the National Logistics Policy in promoting sustainability.

The session was further enriched by a virtual address by Sudhendu J. Sinha, Advisor, NITI Aayog, who talked about the need for immediate action on ZET adoption as a logical pathway to a net zero future for India, with the same being undertaken with a strategic approach under e-FAST (Electric Freight Accelerator for Sustainable Transport – India). He also emphasized upon the need for Industry collaboration and ecosystem support on translating the e-FAST vision into measurable impact with ZET pilot rollout.

There was also a session by Chandana K. and Pravin C. from WRI on the progress of e-FAST, including a view on the aggregated demand with further elaboration on the three strategy pillars for further implementation of E-FAST. The case study provided insights on freight volume along the primary corridor and emphasized upon proximity of specific industries as pertinent to regional considerations.

Aaran Patel from the Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation expanded on the foundation’s present focus on supporting climate initiatives and how the foundation supported CESL on the world’s largest e-bus tender for 5,450 e-buses in September 2022, under the NEBP, which has a target of deploying 50,000 e-buses by 2030.

During an insightful online session conducted by Rajat Kumar Saini, IAS, CEO & MD, NICDC, he elaborated on ULIP’s role and functionality within the logistics domain. The session also explored the Logistics Data Bank utilizing the FOIS (Freight Operations Information System) system.

A dynamic session led by Deepak Suri, Senior Sector Expert from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (Ministry of Power) provided valuable insights into incentivizing and monetizing emission reduction efforts. Apart from presenting a comprehensive view of the freight landscape in India, Mr. Suri outlined various Indian government initiatives such as FAME1 and FAME2, the development of Zero Emission Transport (ZET) corridors, deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, introduction of hydrogen-powered public buses, and the establishment of dedicated freight corridors.

The discussion was also joined by Abhijit B Ghorpade, Director, State Climate Action Cell, Department of Environment and Climate Action, Government of Maharashtra, who presented a wider view on why sustainability is a pertinent question for any growth-oriented economy, with Maharashtra being an apt case study for the same.

A special remark by OP Agrawal towards the end of the program highlighted the need for such discussions at regular intervals to leverage the vast knowledge base with the knowledge partners for addressing the capacity gaps for advancing the freight decarbonization in India, with the same being a critical need of the hour, not just towards NDC commitments by India but also towards a more sustainable future for Indian Freight Sector.

Closing remarks to the event were made by Narayankumar Sreekumar, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and Sean Cooke, UNEP thanking the participants for their insightful studies and research and the active participation by the industry which paves the way to move aggressively towards electrifying road freight ecosystem and the need for standardizing emissions accounting.

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