First-gen biofuels suffer as EU Council announces 2030 targets

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The Council of the EU has adopted its position on a directive promoting the use of renewable energy across the Union. The announcement could have significant ramifications for the continent’s biofuels industry, and has already sparked controversy.

Environment and energy ministers in the Council have agreed renewable energy targets for 2030 ahead of negotiations in 2018 with the European Parliament. The announcement includes a commitment to reach a target of at least 27% renewable energy in the EU’s overall energy consumption by 2030.

In the transport sector, the renewables target for 2030 is set at 14% for each member state, with a sub-target of 3% for advanced biofuels. Double-counting will be allowed for advanced biofuels, with an intermediate binding milestone of 1% in 2025 ‘to increase investment security and guarantee the availability of fuels throughout the period’.

The announcement seems a negative one for first-generation biofuels. The existing 7% cap will be maintained to provide certainty to investors. Most significantly, if a member state sets a lower first generation cap, it will be ‘rewarded’ with the option of lowering its overall target for renewables in transport.

 

Fossil fuels the winner

The trade association for the European renewable ethanol industry, ePURE, was quick to respond to the new announcement. In a statement, the association argues that as well as delivering ‘artificial multipliers’ for certain renewable energy sources, the Council’s new position would leave more space for fossil fuels in the EU’s post 2020 transport mix.

Emmanuel Desplechin, ePURE’s Secretary General, lamented a constant atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding Europe’s biofuels industry: “Only a stable policy framework can restore investors’ confidence and allow existing biofuels operations to run. As it stands now, the European Commission, Parliament and Council are all sending mixed messages, with fossil fuels as the only clear winner.”

 

Half-baked

Angel Alvarez Alberdi, Secretary of the European Waste-to-Advanced Biofuels Association (EWABA), labelled the Council’s approach “a half-baked compromise.”

He told Biofuels International: “Maintaining an already timid 27% target for the use of renewable energy and allowing for the possibility of lowering the transport sub-target are unfortunate. Member States’ general lack of ambition is worrying.”

However, Alvarez Alberdi does see some positives, particularly in relation to second-generation biofuels. “EWABA welcomes Member States’ decision to eliminate an unjustifiable EU-wide limitation to waste-based biofuels.”

For him, forthcoming negotiations could be pivotal to the future of Europe’s waste-based biofuel industry.

“EU Council and Parliament will start trilogue negotiations under the brokerage of the Commission during the first quarter of 2018. Expectations are quite high as EU lawmakers are expected to get tailored solutions for a particularly diverse and complex set of industries. We are hopeful that, given its solid decarbonisation credentials and sustainability profile, waste-based biodiesel will eventually obtain a fair regulatory framework with an adequate level of promotion.”

 

This article was written by Daryl Worthington, editor of Biofuels International