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Transport sector and national recovery plans: investment priorities for a green recovery

On 30 April, most EU Member States handed in their national recovery and resilience plan in the framework of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the EU recovery fund of €750 billion aimed to finance the (green) recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Commission has currently received 18 national plans. Whereas larger Member States like Germany, France, Spain and Italy already handed in their plans, it remains to be seen what Member States such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland will prioritize during the recovery phase. Dr2 Consultants’ Transport Team assessed the different national recovery plans focusing on the transport sector to identify Member States’ investment priorities for the coming years and identified three investment trends: charging infrastructure, railways and hydrogen solutions. These trends will provide ample opportunity for the transport industry to secure funding for their projects, and are therefore relevant to monitor closely.

Below, Dr2 consultants provides a more detailed explanation of the three identified trends.

Trend 1: Charging infrastructure to stimulate the greening of transport as part of national recovery plans

Multiple Member States aim to use RRF resources to invest in the roll-out of recharging and refueling infrastructure for alternative fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and bio-CNG/LNG. Where Austria, Belgium and Spain invest in the deployment of recharging infrastructure, Germany is leading the pack, as it will invest approximately €2.5 billion in the infrastructure for electric vehicles. This recharging infrastructure will take the form of an increase in the number of charging points for electric vehicles, both rolling out public charging points as well as stimulating public and private investments in infrastructure rollout by private companies. These investments in alternative fuels infrastructure will go hand in hand with stimulating fleet renewal throughout the EU, focusing on vehicle fleet for company cars and trucking businesses.

European Green Deal Impact Scan

Not only are these investments directly stimulating the greening of the transport sector, but they are also desirable in the context of the upcoming revisions of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) and the TEN-T Regulation. In line with the anticipated objectives set out in these upcoming legislative files, Member States will be required to invest more in the deployment of recharging infrastructure to boost e-mobility across the EU.

Trend 2: Expanding railway connections finds resonance in the national recovery plans for transport

The European ‘Year of Rail’ appears to find resonance in the national recovery plans. A swift modal shift from road to rail could become reality as Member States are consistently aiming to invest significant amounts from the RRF into the expansion of the railway network in the EU. Italy aims to invest an approximate €25 billion in railway infrastructure, which is partly used for high-speed lines in its northern parts, focusing on cross-border connections with the rest of Europe. Belgium will also be ambitious in the coming years, focusing both on a more efficient rail network to further stimulate a modal shift, as well as embracing new mobility concepts such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and building accessible multimodal stations.

Trend 3: Hydrogen solutions for transport

With Member States embracing hydrogen as a key enabler of the energy transition, it is no surprise that Member States aim to invest massively in hydrogen solutions. First of all, Member States are scaling up the production, storage and transmission of (green) hydrogen. Several Member States state they want to start Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) in the field of hydrogen. This means that Member States are not individually scaling up in the field of hydrogen, but that the hydrogen transition is considered a collective effort between all Member States. This way of thinking is in line with the EU’s Hydrogen Strategy from July 2020, and is a trend that will further materialize after revisions of essential pieces of EU legislation in the Fit for 55 Package.

Dr2 Consultants observes that an important element in national hydrogen strategies are the transport applications of hydrogen. Portugal, for example, aims for a 1-5% share of green hydrogen in road transport and a share of 3-5% in inland waterway transport by 2030. Germany and France are both set to invest approximately €2 billion in the scale-up of their hydrogen economy.

What does this mean for European businesses?

The existing plans can serve as a good blueprint for lobbying activities towards Member States that are still in the process of writing and finalizing national recovery and resilience plans. The projects and investments as laid out in the existing plans can be an important driver for the Member States to invest in similar projects in order to boost their competitive position.

However, Dr2 Consultants sees that some plans are more detailed than others, and that some Member States have fewer concrete ideas yet on how to reach some of the goals they pose in their plans (e.g. sticking to general notions such as ‘stimulating the modal shift’). Since the recovery plans will be scrutinized by the European Commission, it will remain to be seen if the national plans will have to be further specified before they can be approved by the EU.

Dr2 Consultants advises businesses to consult closely with national authorities how they can contribute to the execution of projects. Although RRF resources will have to be allocated to projects that can stimulate the (green) recovery over the short-term, co-financing from the RRF can cover unprofitable margins and ensure investment clarity.

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