Energy Efficiency of Road Networks and Vehicles: Measurement, Pricing, Regional and Environmental Effects (EERNV)
Transportation demand and transport energy consumption have increased significantly in Greece over the last decades following analogous trends in EU countries. The current rate of growth of the transportation sector outstrips the rate of improvement in technologies that support environmentally friendly transport, resulting in increasing environmental problems. Long term effects on climate have been closely linked to the expansion of the transport sector which is one of the few energy using sectors with growing rates of greenhouse gas emissions. More specifically, road transport is considered to be a major contributor to environmental pollution and climate change entailing substantial social costs both from a static and dynamic point of view. In the relevant literature, the evaluation of the transportation activities with respect to road haulage, in economic, and subsequently in social welfare terms, is mainly based on Pigou externalities; that is on the burden that each user imposes on the road system. Recently, the notion of these externalities has been broadened and focuses on issues of emissions which are directly associated to the energy efficiency of road transportation systems. Energy efficiency of the transportation systems is considered to be the most crucial factor towards the minimization of environmental pollution especially in the case of the developed economies where the transportation sector is the most significant energy consumer. In addition, the significance of the energy efficiency for the social welfare may be established both in terms of the “traditional” economic development as well as in terms of the “sustainable” development. On the other hand, we should point out that transportation sector is one of the main and dynamic contributors to GDP, and thus state intervention, in the form of regulation towards the reduction of emissions from transportation sector, is associated with high economic costs.
Towards this direction, losses in terms of energy efficiency are directly related to:
a) The specific technological characteristics of the vehicles and road networks, as well as to the different available kinds (typology) of routes that are met by the different uses of the transportation system. These elements may be considered that constitute a production system where ‘bad outputs’ are present.
b) The particularities of the management of the supply chain systems. In this context the pricing systems is one of the core issues.
c) The overall productive efficiency of the activities in which transportation, and especially the road haulage, contributes as an input.
The overall aim of this research project is to measure the energy efficiency of transport networks in order to provide a solid framework for assessing roads, routes and vehicles and, in addition, to introduce energy-driven pricing mechanisms and energy-aware decision support. Our research effort covers a major gap in existing literature by assembling an interdisciplinary team of researchers, spanning economics, electrical engineering, transportation science and operations research. This broad spectrum of disciplines is imposed by both the inherent complexity of the research topic and its anticipated scientific and practical impact. The former arises from the related literature that remains limited, despite the constantly increasing significance of energy efficiency in transport; that is, energy efficiency is a multi-faceted field requiring real measurement of energy consumption, accurate forecasting of road conditions, appropriate definition of energy-related productivity indices, novel pricing mechanisms and the redesign of algorithms for network optimization (i.e., paths, flows and vehicle routes). The latter is implied by the increasing public awareness regarding energy and environmental issues and also by the fact that energy efficiency already affects the value chain for several industries, commercial products and public goods.
To achieve this aim, this project can be schematically thought of as comprising three tiers, namely the lower tier of capturing and measuring energy consumption and road congestion, the middle tier of energy-aware network optimization and forecasting and the upper tier of energy-based productivity analysis for road and vehicles; several additional topics are examined in all tiers, including the energy-driven pricing of road and vehicles, the regional effects of different energy-efficiency metrics and of pricing itself.