Industry leaders discuss challenges, progress at Alternative Fuel Summit

Speakers from Swinburne University, University of Melbourne and Freight Victoria at the Alternative Fuel Summit 2023.

A range of speakers from OEMs, academia, suppliers, the private sector and government gathered together yesterday to discuss shifting management processes and the scale of challenges confronting industry at the second annual Victorian Transport Association Alternative Fuel Summit.

A strong line-up of speakers made presentations at Hyatt Place Essendon Fields that encompassed a range of projects and projections, some of which helped dispel uncertainties associated with the lofty ambitions of proponents of net zero.

Held to assist freight industry operators and suppliers prepare for a future that is significantly less reliant on fossil fuels and, over time, powered by renewable energy, the event attracted around 200 delegates who were provided a range of discussions on the latest technology, policy and regulation on energy consumption, alternative fuels, hydrogen, and electric vehicles.

“The road transport industry is now firmly on a path towards decarbonisation as jurisdictions in Australia and around the world start to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson in his opening remarks.

“This is what inspired our inaugural summit last year as transport operators are at various stages of decarbonising but are eager to understand where and how to start the journey.

“Decarbonisation can be a difficult concept for operators to get their minds across but it’s important that they do because the low and no carbon future is already upon us.”

The program was designed around the four pillars of Targets and Regulation, Alternative Fuel Sources, Equipment, and the Commercial Realities of Alternative Fuels.

With projected growth in road freight between now and 2050 expected to rise by 77 per cent, the task and reality of integrating the available zero emissions technologies for instant results in the short-term will be incremental as carriers and transport firms embarked on staged strategies involving fleet and invariably project management with charging infrastructure, government policy, vehicle regulation and network harmonisation front of mind.

Major fleets like Team Global Express, Australia Post and DHL offered glimpses into the progress and obstacles they were facing to lower emissions at scale.

Emerging concepts like the physical internet, stochastic programming and micro consolidation centres shaped ongoing discourse around shared facilities and socialisation of available networks to expedite meaningful changes towards reducing the industry’s current emissions footprint.

Bart Simes of Lochard Energy, a major power provider that supplies half of the state’s gas requirement on peak days in Victoria, delivered one of the presentations that resonated over the course of the day.

Simes provided a short history and progress report on the H2REFUEL project proposed for Winton, which is strategically situated halfway between Melbourne and the Tarcutta trailer changeover.

Delegates were given a glimpse of some of the work streams, landholder negotiations, initial stakeholder engagements and inherent complications of infrastructure development using a combination of renewables, recyclables and the existing grid hedged with renewable energy contracts.

It generated ongoing discussions on stage and on the floor.

The project, according to Simes, is intended to emulate how infrastructure will look in the 2030s.

“If you spend time on something that doesn’t emulate what the future is going to look like you’re not going to get a particularly good learning curve,” he said.

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