Decarbonization and sustainability

The incorporation of more efficient and less polluting vehicles, as well as distribution centres that operate with lower energy consumption, are enabling achievements to be made in a logistics sector where decarbonisation was considered difficult to materialise.

Traditionally, the logistics sector has been considered as diffuse or hard to abate when it comes to emissions and climate change mitigation. However, technical advances are making it feasible to implement eco- and zero-emission solutions.

At Logistop we believe that originating and developing collective innovation projects related to decarbonisation will achieve:

  • Accelerate the energy transition that society demands.
  • Dismantling many myths about what was considered unfeasible or not very operational.
  • To encourage cost reduction, so that new energy technologies can be applied in more and more environments.
  • Forget the old dichotomy between economic and sustainable solutions.

Decarbonisation can be approached from many interrelated perspectives. We structure them in three sections:

  • Green hydrogen.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Renewable energy.

Green hydrogen as a key energy vector

At a time when decarbonisation is key to energy and climate progress, green hydrogen is presented as a sustainable alternative for the decarbonisation of the economy.

The declared urgency of the fight against climate change and pollution in urban and peri-urban areas implies the need to introduce “zero-zero” solutions:  

  • No CO2 emissions.  
  • No emissions of pollutants such as NOx, SOx and particulate matter.  

This will lead to:

  • Adopting electric engines, which in turn can run on batteries (Battery Electric Vehicles: BEVs) and hydrogen-powered fuel cells (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles: FCEVs).  
  • Progressively phase out the combustion engine.

The logistics sector, and especially the transport of goods with heavy goods vehicles and their handling in ports and warehouses, should be one of the first to adopt renewable hydrogen, as BEVs have serious limitations, especially for large volume or tonnage vehicles.

This represents a great responsibility, but at the same time a great opportunity for the logistics sector:

  • Decarbonise operationsespecially in ports and road transport.
  • Breaking the loopbetween lack of H2 production and lack of demand, through innovative projects that cover both dimensions.
  • Sustainable growth: sustainable e-commerce, access to urban centres and peripheries, new concessions or infrastructure.
  • Innovating with access to public-private funding, operational improvements and projecting a stronger image to customers and society.

Reducing emissions through energy efficiency in buildings and logistics vehicles

It is obvious that the greenest and most economical energy is energy that is not consumed, so energy saving and efficiency is an effective means of decarbonisation, often the most readily available and at the same time an opportunity to reduce costs.

In order to cover the growing energy needs of the storage, transport and distribution of goods with the least possible use of resources, a series of improvements are being developed that involve progressive and, over time, significant reductions in energy intensity. In other words, a lower amount of energy required per unit of economic value of the country, region or, in our case, the logistics sector.

Energy efficiency has many characteristics of continuous improvement and is achieved with a set of evolving but innovative tools, but there is no universal energy efficiency solution: no “magic formulas”, no “silver bullets”, no “philosopher’s stones”. Some of the most valid actions for the sector can be grouped as follows:

Use of efficient equipment

suitable for the operation of logistics platforms and warehouses: LED lighting, bioclimatic architecture, efficient air conditioning, advanced industrial or commercial refrigeration systems, electrical network conditioners, etc.

Incorporation of eco-vehicles

high-efficiency engines, aerodynamic and tyre improvements, use of lightweight materials, hybrid vehicles, fleet management systems and improved vehicle payload, etc.

Awareness-raising among users and managers

which is facilitated by energy audits, monitoring platforms, remote management and consumption analysis, courses (e.g. on efficient driving) and other measures to encourage responsible consumption.

The incorporation of renewable energies into logistics facilities

Non-fossil energy generation is becoming increasingly possible in logistics facilities. Renewable energies are closely linked to the concept of distributed energy – as opposed to large fossil fuel power plants. Ports, logistics buildings and their surroundings can therefore take advantage of inexhaustible, indigenous energy sources that do not release carbon compounds or other emissions into the atmosphere.  

In the long term, if the facilities are well designed for the location and use, they are also more economical. Together with regulatory changes, they allow logistics buildings to approach, achieve or even exceed the standards set by the European Union for Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), becoming emblems of sustainability. The main installations applicable in the sector are:

  • Photovoltaic solar panels on rooftops or on the ground, on land next to warehouses or logistics platforms; both in pure self-consumption mode or with surpluses that are injected into the electricity grid.
  • Solar thermalpanels to provide domestic hot water, heating or even for operational processes.
  • Aerothermal or geothermaluse for air-conditioning of offices and large spaces.
  • Wind or hybrid wind-photovoltaicinstallations, if the location permits, as is the case in many ports.

This is complemented by the consumption of certified renewable energy, which is another way of contributing to decarbonisation: electricity, biomass, biogas and green hydrogen itself.

Juan Carlos de Pablo Olaiz leader of Logistop's Decarbonisation Work Group