Call for action as pandemic ‘sets back’ biofuel industry growth

The Biofuture Platform is leading calls for urgent collaboration from policymakers following a 12% drop in biofuel output this year announced in the International Energy Agency.
The multi-stakeholder initiative designed to take action on climate change by promoting international coordination on the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy, has labelled this as a potentially critical setback, which could act as a barrier to green recovery and have long-term negative impacts on the decarbonisation of the transport sector.
The shrinking demand confirmed by the IEA in its Renewables 2020 report comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the first time the sector has declined in over two decades.
Global biofuels production reached record levels in 2019, and before the crisis, biofuels were predicted to grow by 3% this year.
Production of fuel ethanol has been particularly adversely affected by the pandemic with the sector facing a 14.5% contraction this year and a return to 2015 levels. A total of 80% of this fall is found in the key markets of Brazil and the US.
A fall in crude oil prices at the start of the pandemic made biofuels less competitive than traditional fossil fuels.
Despite the contraction in 2020, the IEA’s report projects that transport biofuels could again reach 2019 levels in 2021 if supported by consistent policy initiatives and a rebound in global fuel demands.
However, with new waves of the pandemic, it is likely that demand for transport fuels will continue to be affected in the first half of next year.
Dr Paolo Frankl, head of the Renewable Energy Division at the IEA, said: “Biofuels are critical to achieving successful global clean energy transitions. Decarbonising aviation and shipping – sectors that are particularly hard-to-abate – as we recover from the global pandemic will be key to ensuring that countries meet their net-zero targets in the decades to come. With the hope that the pandemic will subside at some point, 2021 is the time for decisive action to be taken.”

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