EU adopts 10 percent biofuels mandate

By Susanne Retka Schill | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Dec. 23, 2008, at 2:39 p.m. CST

The European Union is increasing its B5 standard to B7 as part of the Fuel Quality Directive passed in mid-December along with the new Renewable Energy Directive. The directive will phase in climate change reduction goals over the next decade, while the new blending standard can be implemented within the next two years by member states. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) will publish the revised standard by June, paving the way for member states to adjust their standards to meet the EU's Fuel Quality Directive.

The Renewable Energy Directive adopted Dec. 17 by the European Parliament defined a 20-20-20 plan that calls for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2020, a 20 percent increase in the use of renewable energy by 2020 and a 20 percent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency by 2020.

A mandatory 10 percent goal for transportation fuels such as biofuels, electricity and hydrogen is included in the renewable energy increase. That replaced a voluntary 5.75 percent target by 2010, which was established in 2003 and implemented by individual member states through a variety of policies. The 2003 targets included a 2020 goal of 10 percent for biofuels, which was retained as a mandatory goal after much discussion about lowering those targets.

The European Biodiesel Board said the confirmation of the 10 percent target for 2020 gives a strong signal to Europe's biodiesel industry. "In times of economic recession when different economic sectors are hit by declining investment, the confirmation of the European target as a mandatory one is essential in order to pave the way for even more ambitious developments of renewable energy in the transport sector," the EBB said. The new biofuels target would total 34 million metric tons of both biodiesel and ethanol, compared with the current European biodiesel capacity of 16 million metric tons (4.8 billion gallons).

New measures incorporated into the EU directive include minimum GHG reduction targets for biofuels, and sustainability criteria. The GHG target for biofuels to take effect in 2011 was set at a 35 percent reduction when compared with fossil fuels. For biofuels producers in operation in January 2008, the requirement will take effect April 1, 2013. In 2017, the requirement increases to a 50 percent reduction, and for new producers after 2017, the target will be 60 percent. Targets for GHG emission reductions include not only fossil fuels, but also biofuels, electricity and hydrogen. The new directive requires fuel suppliers to reduce GHG emissions caused by extraction or cultivation, including land use changes; transport and distribution; processing; and the combustion of transport fuels. For each member state, cuts in GHG emissions can be achieved by using more biofuels, alternative fuels, or by reducing gas flaring and venting at oil wells or refineries.

A separate European initiative focusing on sustainability criteria is expected to be complete by the end of 2009, giving the European Commission time to review the language for inclusion in the climate change directive. The directive says that no member state can go beyond the sustainability and certification requirements set up in the directive, nor can the member state refuse a biofuel complying with the sustainability requirements. Each member state will still have flexibility in developing its own incentives and policies to meet the Renewable Energy Directive's goals, which in the past have often favored its own producers.

The directive offers incentives for more sustainable biofuels by allowing second-generation biofuels to be double-credited in the 10 percent target. Second-generation biofuels don't compete with food or feed production, and include wastes, residues, nonfood biomass such as algae, wood residues or paper waste. The directive calls for the European Commission to develop a methodology to measure GHG emissions from indirect land use by 2010.

"In the view of the European biodiesel industry, the confirmation of the 10 percent target for renewable energy in transport is a very important move, but it will be equally important to ensure that the future implementation of the directive does not undermine its content," said Raffaello Garofalo, EBB secretary general. "As part of the long road ahead, the need is now to elaborate a new and transparent EU scientific reference for assessing the greenhouse gas savings of the different biofuels pathways and of the fossil fuels comparators."
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