UK’s Department of Transport unveils Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation consultation

The UK’s Department of Transport has published a consultation on the future of renewable transport, setting out long-term targets towards 2030.

The consultation proposes capping crop-based fuels to below EU levels. It also introduces a new sub-target for development fuels such as biomethane, hydrogen and aviation fuels.

Some of the proposals include the following:

  • Raise the Renewable Transport  Fuel Obligation (RFTO) in equal steps to 9.75% (by volume) in 2020 to achieve 5-6% renewable energy in transport, supporting the achievement of UK Carbon Budgets and the transport sub-target in the RED, and maintain at least that level of obligation to 2030.
  • Define wastes to meet the definition used in the RED, and incorporate in the RTFO the waste hierarchy concept to ensure wastes with higher value end uses are not incentivised for biofuel production.
  • Maintain double rewards under the RTFO, to incentivise the production of renewable fuels made from wastes that meet the new definition and the hierarchy.
  • Introduce and set a sub-target for specific advanced or 'development' waste-derived fuels that meet the waste definition and hierarchy and qualifying non-biological renewable fuels.
  • Define the 'development' fuels which will qualify for the sub-target to include fuels of strategic importance to the UK, including hydrogen, aviation fuel, and fuels that can be blended at high levels with standard grade petrol and diesel.
  • Set a maximum level for the supply of crop based biofuels at around current levels to mitigate the risk of an increase in their supply, which can result in increased emissions due to high indirect land-use change impacts.

The Department of Transport’s proposal to incentivise ‘development’ transport fuels through the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation has been welcomed by the Green Gas Certification Scheme.

One of these fuels is biomethane, a renewable green gas produced from biomass and wastes which can either be injected to the gas grid or shipped to the point of use.

Virginia Graham, CEO of the Green Gas Certification Scheme, said: “Currently most biomethane is injected into the gas distribution network. It can then be taken out, where needed, and used for various purposes, including for transport. It makes an excellent, clean vehicle fuel, bringing benefits in terms of decarbonisation, reduced particulate emissions and lower noise levels.”

'Disappointingly low targets'

Commenting on the consultation, James Court, head of policy & external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association said:

“Whilst it is positive that the industry will now have some long sought after policy certainty, the proposed indiscriminate capping of fuel crops could condemn over a £1 billion of assets of our members.

“The move to include a new sub-target for biomethane, hydrogen and aviation fuels is welcome, but the truth is that the targets are disappointingly low and will mean that over 90% of our fuel use for decades to come will come from polluting fossil sources. It is crucial that genuinely sustainable biofuels are encouraged, something the UK was leading on and we could now see stagnation of plants at best, closure at worst.”

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