Biofuels industry slams European Commission’s revised Renewable Energy Directive

The European biofuels industry has sharply criticised the European Commission’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The EC has made plans to minimise Indirect Land-Use Change (ILC) impacts. In relation to this, the revised RED will introduce a cap on the contribution of food-based biofuels towards the EU renewable energy target, starting at 7% in 2021 and going down progressively to 3.8% in 2030.

The EC also proposed a binding blending obligation of 6.8 % to promote other ‘low emissions fuels’ such as renewable electricity and advanced biofuels used in transport.


The European renewable ethanol association (ePURE) said it regretted the EC’s intentions to phase out, or significantly reduce, the use of conventional biofuels in Europe, contained in the proposed for the period post-2020, published as part of the Clean Energy Package yesterday ( 30th November).

In a statement, ePURE said a reduction of the limit on conventional biofuels use to 3.8% undermines the existing €16 billion invested in European biofuel production facilities since 2003 as a result of the EU biofuels policy.

The proposed phase out of conventional biofuels means that the Commission has now proposed four different changes to the targets for renewable energy use in EU transport since the adoption of its first biofuels policy in 2003.

According to ePURE, the proposal also backtracks on the compromise agreed by the EU institutions as part of the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive in 2015, which Member States have only begun the process of implementing. This permanent policy flux is diametrically opposite to the EC’s Better Regulation Agenda and has created an impossible policy environment that significantly jeopardises further investments in both conventional and advanced biofuels in Europe.

‘Purely a political decision’

“This political decision is not justified and ignores the Commission’s own science which shows that ethanol is a low carbon fuel. It is purely a political decision that runs contrary to the Commission’s better regulation agenda. The biofuel sector feel betrayed by the Commission because of its complete disregard for the investments made in good faith on the basis of EU policy”, said Robert Wright, Secretary-General of ePURE.

He added:  “The Commission is totally detached from reality if it expects that its proposal will result in significant investments in advanced biofuels, given that most of the potential investors have already been burned by the Commission's previous biofuels u-turns. ePURE calls on Member States and Parliament to seek the promotion of advanced biofuels in addition to conventional biofuels.”

Denmark-based biotechnology company Novozymes also criticised the EC’s RED proposals.

“Today’s proposal for a new Renewable Energy Directive post 2020 falls short of the EU ambition to increase the share of renewables by 2030. In fact, the proposed gradual phase out of all conventional biofuels would only increase the share of fossil fuels in transport and add GHG emissions. By 2020, the aim was to have 10% renewables in transport, by 2030, the ambition is lowered to 6.8%.” said Thomas Schrøder, VP for Biorefining, Novozymes.

He added: “The European Commission failed to reflect in its proposal the latest science and evidence that demonstrate the very high sustainability profile of a series of conventional biofuels. For example, conventional ethanol effectively reduces GHG emissions today (by 64% on average compared to petrol) even when indirect impacts are accounted for. They have a legitimate role to play in the EU energy mix.” 

 The association of the German biofuels industry (VDB) has sharply criticised yesterday’s European Commission proposal for the continuation of the RED. 

"With this proposal, the Commission is on a fatal path in climate, agricultural and economic policy. If this draft were implemented, the absurd consequence would be that the consumption of fossil fuel will rise significantly by the year 2030, while the use of biofuels and other renewables in transport will break down and decarbonisation will fail, "said Elmar Baumann, managing director of VDB. 

The draft RED II, which is presented today in Brussels by the EC, provides for halving the contribution of conventional biofuels by 2030.Biodiesel and bioethanol from cultivating biomass may then account for 3.8 per cent. Instead, biofuels of the second generation are to be promoted from waste and residues as well as electromobility. 

"A second-generation biofuels will not exist without the first. If the EC is betraying the trust of companies, investors and banks, it is actively contributing to the deindustrialisation of Europe, "said Baumann.


Finnish biofuels specialist Neste welcomed the EC’s proposal.

"As a whole, the Commission's proposal consists of good propositions that support biofuels use and development in Europe. Neste wants to continue the discussions on enabling the industry to use as wide raw material portfolio as possible. This is likely to be brought up in the further work on the proposal. Neste's advantage is that its production technology is flexible in terms of raw materials. Compared to other players within the biofuels industry, we already have an exceptionally wide raw material portfolio," said Kaisa Hietala, executive of Neste's Renewable Products business area. 


This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor at Biofuels International.

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