Electrification is not a viable alternative to fossil fuel use for heating and transport in rural areas.

Direct electrification is already a viable alternative for much of rural heating and transport. Even hard-to-treat areas, like large agricultural machinery, could be decarbonised through indirect electrification and the use of e-fuels.

Electrification represents an effective way to decarbonise heating in rural areas. For example, rural areas are often not connected to the gas network, meaning that the distribution of alternative fuels such as ‘green hydrogen’ is impracticable. Similarly, district heating is generally unavailable, and sustainable biomass is needed elsewhere to decarbonise harder-to-treat sectors. However, heat in rural areas can be decarbonised using heat pumps combined with renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures.

Electrification also represents an effective way to decarbonise transport. Transport in rural areas is characterised by longer distances for road transport, lower availability of public transport services and the use of vehicles and machinery for agriculture. Passenger cars already have ranges exceeding 600 km, which could meet the needs of a large portion of rural transport, and further improvements in battery technology will allow even longer ranges, extending the suitability of electric cars in rural areas. Trucks travelling longer distances may have to rely on approaches other than direct electrification, but electricity can still help decarbonise these areas through the use of green hydrogen or other e-fuels.

The situation for agricultural machines is similar. Smaller agriculture machines and vehicles are suitable for direct electrification, and some models are already available on the market. Bigger machines might be harder to electrify directly with current technologies but can still be indirectly electrified through emissions-free e-fuels.

References:

Committee on Climate Change, “Biomass in a Low - Carbon Economy,” 2018, https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/biomass-in-a-low-carbon-economy/.

Brian Vad; Mathiesen et al., “Towards a Decarbonised Heating and Cooling Sector in Europe - Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and District Energy” (Copenhagen, 2019).