European Parliament’s energy committee endorses 35% renewable energy target for 2030

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The European Parliament’s energy committee ITRE has adopted changes to the EU’s renewable energy directive (RED) to include a new binding 35% green energy target for 2030 as well as a new set of principles on future financial support to renewable energy sources.

Spanish S&D member José Blanco López, who is responsible for steering the plans through Parliament, said: “Europe needs to do more. It needs more ambition for renewable energy if it wants to fulfil its Paris commitments, fight climate change and lead the energy transition.”

The update is needed as the EU is committed to boosting renewable energy. A binding target to reduce energy consumption by 40% by 2030 at EU level was agreed by the Industry and Energy Committee (ITRE) on Tuesday (28 November, 2017). MEPs wanted to be more ambitious than the EU Commission, which had proposed a 30% reduction.

In a separate vote, which also took place on Tuesday, Industry and Energy Committee MEPs agreed that by 2030, a minimum of 35% of all energy consumed in the EU would need to come from renewable, cleaner sources. For the transport sector, at least 12% of the energy consumed in each Member State would have to be produced from renewables, such as the sun or wind.

Biofuels

European Waste-to-Advanced Biofuels Association  (EWABA) welcomes ITRE’s decisions to improve the general target for the use of renewable energy (35%), to establish a specific target for the use of renewable energy in the transport sector (at least 12%), and to increase the incorporation obligation for fuel suppliers (up to 10%).

In a statement, EWABA stated that certain amendments approved are particularly positive for the waste-based biofuels industry at large, in particular regarding the widening of the definition of advanced biofuels (which now encompasses non crop-based sustainable biomass, thus allowing for a wide array of waste-based biofuels using feedstocks outside of part A of Annex IX to be labelled as “advanced”) or the flexibilisation of the EU-wide 1.7% cap for the use of feedstocks in part B of Annex IX, which was recently described by the ART Fuels Forum as “conservative” and unjustified.

EWABA secretary general, Angel Alvarez Alberdi, said: “Today’s vote sets the scene for a solid Parliament first reading position, to be adopted by the plenary in early 2018. Waste-based biofuels will undoubtedly play a major role in the EU alternative fuel mix post-2020. The ITRE report confirms EU policymakers’ trust in the high decarbonisation potential of used cooking oil and animal fats-based biodiesel.”

ITRE does not have competences over the crop cap, as the ENVI committee did. Alberdi told Biofuels International that the ITRE vote "is good for crop-based biofuels because it introduces a general target for the use of renewable energy in transport at 12%".

'Fast-track sustainable solution'

Marko Janhunen, chair of Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels (LSB) and VP of Stakeholder Relations at UPM Biorefining welcomed what he called the positive outcome of the ITRE committee. He said that the news demonstrated “increased confidence in advanced biofuels as a fast-track sustainable solution to reduce transport emissions”.

He added: “Now it is time to take action. RED2 done right will enable significant investment opportunities, job creation and reduction of transport emissions. EU member states and the European Parliament should recognize the urgent need to reduce transport emissions.

“They should also recognize that advanced biofuels can play an important role in all member states.  Sustainable feedstock is available all over the EU, and advanced biofuels technologies have been developed by numerous companies.

“RED2 done right will be positive to the European economy, and the climate.”

Crop-based ethanol

In a statement, EU ethanol trade body ePURE said that the push by MEPs to reinstate a 2030 renewables in transport target increased at 12%, together with the endorsement of an advanced biofuels sub-target, are a step in the right direction.

ePURE added: “But at the same time they would not allow Member States to use all sustainable renewable fuels like EU ethanol in their energy mix. As part of a complex architecture setting another 10% obligation for fuel suppliers to blend in low-emission fuels, MEPs voted to prevent Member States from using crop-based ethanol – which delivers 66% average greenhouse-gas reduction compared to fossil petrol. In doing so they reduced its contribution even further than what the Commission initially proposed, putting into question the achievability of the objectives without artificial multipliers.”

“It will now be up to the Plenary of the European Parliament and Member States to fix this,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association.

He added: “In their plenary vote in January, MEPs need to move the Parliament’s position closer to what Council has spelled out coherently in its proposed position. Instead of throwing out existing solutions that work, build on them by leaving in place the 7% cap on crop-based biofuels and promoting advanced biofuels as part of an overall renewables in transport target. It is only by embracing all of these sustainable solutions, and by combining low-carbon fuels like ethanol with renewable electricity, that the EU will have any chance of meeting its climate goals for transport.”

Bioenergy

Elsehwere, ITRE maintained that national authorities need to make sure that financial programmes, supporting measures which increase the share of electricity produced from renewables, are stable and predictable. They should refrain from making frequent changes and avoid all retroactive changes, ITRE urged. 

“However, provisions adopted on heating and cooling are not quite ambitious enough to prevent the EU from locking in fossil fuels in this sector,” said Jean-Marc Jossart, secretary general of Aebiom.

Votes

The resolution on energy efficiency was approved by 33 votes in favour to 30 against and 2 abstentions.

The resolution on renewables was approved by 43 votes in favour to 14 against and 7 abstentions.

Next steps

The two legislative resolutions will be voted on by the full Parliament during the January plenary session to give MEPs the mandate to start negotiations with EU governments.


 This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Biofuels International and Bioenergy Insight.