Support for the development of CNG use in the Czech Republic

Conference programme here

There is no question that climate change is reality today. Statistics show that global emissions are increasing by 1.3 to 1.5 per cent annually. Road transport is also growing; in the Czech Republic, by 12 per cent every year. A balanced reduction in emissions is a hot topic, and is closely tied to economic and strategic energy aspects. 

The 2001 white paper on European transport policy calls for replacing 20 to 23 per cent of fossil fuels by alternative fuels in road transport by 2020. The Czech Republic has also subscribed to this indicative EU target, and under COM (2001) 370 seeks to achieve a share of ten per cent of natural gas in overall consumption of motor fuels. 

In the Czech Republic, promoting natural gas use is one of the major measures intended to reduce pollutant emissions from transport. In May 2005 the Czech Government approved the Programme of Support for Alternative Fuels in Transport – Natural Gas. The programme set forth some solutions that have since helped to create a stable and attractive environment for the development of natural gas use in transport. This step also triggered consultations between gas distribution companies, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Transport, with a view to drafting an Agreement in which the government and gas companies would undertake to create the preconditions for the promotion of NGVs in the Czech Republic. 

The Agreement was signed in 2006. In the Agreement, the Czech Government undertook to stabilise the excise duty on CNG. As from 1 January 2007 a zero excise duty on CNG is applicable in the Czech Republic, and it will stay in place until 2012; from that year on it will be gradually increased in about four stages. In 2020 it is to return to its 2006 level. The government have also agreed to extend the programme of support for the replacement of public transport vehicles by way of subsidising new CNG buses. Between 2008 and 2013 companies operating in the Czech Republic can obtain direct subsidies for new buses. This support, already endorsed by the European Commission, provides funds for investment in environmentally friendly buses operated for the purpose of public service. A total of 36 city buses received subsidies amounting to almost CZK 30 million (EUR 1.2 million) in 2007. 

The government also participates in gas companies’ campaign designed to enhance public awareness of the benefits of NGVs, and has drawn up an operating and financial analysis of the potential for a gradual replacement of the vehicle fleets that serve governmental authorities and organisations, by CNG vehicles. This analysis raises hopes that also public authorities will purchase CNG vehicles. 

In the Agreement the gas companies have also agreed to build one hundred CNG refuelling stations by 2020, subject to the condition of a station serving a minimum of four buses or vehicles with a similar natural gas consumption, i.e. about 100,000 cubic metres, in the first year. The minimum target annual consumption will amount to 400,000 cubic metres within four years from commissioning. By 2013 gas companies shall also build CNG refuelling stations along the main road transit routes across the Czech Republic.

Under the Agreement gas companies provide, as part of their marketing support for public transport, a financial contribution of CZK 200,000 (EUR 8,000 ) for every newly procured CNG bus, up to a total of CZK 10 million/year (EUR 400,000/year).

One of the aims of the Agreement is to introduce self-service CNG refuelling in an effort to simplify vehicle refuelling and make it more attractive, and also to facilitate non-stop access to dispensers. To this end, an autonomous decentralised customer payment system has been developed, the CNG CardCentrum. The system uses a single universal customer card and the cardholder is billed for the CNG taken on a monthly basis. Requirements of practical life have necessitated the drafting of completely new regulations: Equipment of garages, servicing and repair stations and other facilities for CNG vehicles (TDG 981 01), Requirements for the operation, repairs, maintenance and inspections of CNG vehicles (TDG 982 02), and CNG vehicle refuelling appliances (TDG 982 03). The approval and publication of these regulations is expected in 2008. 

At present, when the Czech gas industry is very actively involved in the CNG vehicle scheme, thereby carrying out the tasks set forth in the Agreement with the government, the benefits of CNG should be discussed very openly at all levels and with all stakeholders. The Czech Gas Association is highly active in this respect and organises workshops, conferences and exhibitions on the CNG topic on a regular basis.

National and regional seminars called Going on Natural Gas focus on CNG and are intended for businesses operating in road transport – passenger transport and road haulage, state administration and regional self-governments, mayors, and companies and individuals who operate their own vehicles. Their purpose is to enhance public awareness of the benefits of CNG as the least expensive, absolutely safe, and environmentally friendly alternative fuel. 

The NGV importers and manufacturers who already are marketing these vehicles in the Czech Republic also attend these seminars frequently. 

A major event organised by the Czech Gas Association was the Prospects for the Development and Use of CNG in Transport international conference held in Prague on 23 and 24 January 2008. Eighteen speakers, six of them from abroad, appeared at the conference. The most distinguished guests of the conference included Mr John Lyon, IANGV President, who brought fresh views of NGV to the conference room and presented the latest information about the current and expected global growth of the automotive market and in CNG sales. Mr Lyon highlighted the need to continue rolling out the CNG station infrastructure with a view to providing for a stable development in this area and achieving the values expected. 

The conference was attended by 136 registered participants, of whom 36 arrived from many European and American countries (Argentine, the US, Canada). Special acknowledgement is due to the 12 partners of the conference, including the Gas Vehicle Report, the media partner. All the partners supported and enriched the programme by their exhibits and presentation materials.

One of the interesting recent projects is the launch of the first CNG vehicle rental outlet in the Czech Republic, operated by Pražská plynárenská, a.s. It currently offers twelve Fiat vehicles. Through this project, Pražská plynárenská a.s. has extended the range of the options for CNG use, while helping to enhance public awareness and confidence in NGV and to reduce pollutant emissions in the streets of Prague. The demand for CNG car hire has surpassed all expectations; customers hire CNG cars for a short time, such as weekends and holidays, and also on a long-term basis for up to three years. The gas company has decided to provide its clients with FuelMaker Phill refuelling stations for long-term car hire.

The operation of CNG vehicles hired from Pražská plynárenská, a.s. is ‘cheaper and greener’. The use of CNG vehicles is continuously increasing in European cities. The Czech capital, Prague, has also begun to address this situation seriously, and CNG vehicles are appearing in Prague streets more and more often. The opening of the CNG rental outlet of Pražská plynárenská, a.s. offers good inspiration and challenge for additional businesses and cities in the Czech Republic. 

There are currently some 1,000 NGVs in operation in the Czech Republic; of these, about 1000 are passenger cars, 250 are CNG buses, and 15 are municipal garbage trucks. Average monthly CNG sales amount to 400,000 cubic metres, and CNG price averages at EUR 0.8/kg (EUR 0.56/cu m).

March 2008
Pavel Novák, NGV Manager, Czech Gas Association 

Český plynárenský svaz