EC makes progress on implementing renewable fuels policy

By | October 14, 2009
The European Commission will be conducting a public consultation this fall on proposed policies to implement the EC Fuel Quality Directive and Renewable Energy Directive. Ariane de Dominicis and Wojciech Winkler spoke about implementation of the European Union renewable fuel policies at a late September Webinar hosted by the International Fuel Quality Center, a nonprofit facilitated by Hart Energy Consulting. Winkler assisted in the Fuel Quality Directive's legislative process and is presently responsible for its implementation. Dominicis is coordinating the biofuels policies. Both work at the EC Directorate General for Environment.

The RED sets targets for all member states that the EU will reach 20 percent renewable content in all energy sectors and a 10 percent renewable share in the transport sector by 2020. The FQD deals specifically with transportation fuels, calling for a 6 percent reduction in life-cycle analysis greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity between 2010 and 2020 for all transport fuels. Additional criteria call for an initial GHG savings threshold of 35 percent for biofuels, rising to 50 percent in 2017 and 60 percent in 2018 for new production facilities.

According to the preliminary default GHG ratings shared by Dominicis and Winkler, the GHG reduction targets in the FQD will present a challenge for all biodiesel except the waste-based product. The current default GHG savings value of 38 percent for biodiesel from rapeseed methyl ester is sufficient only for the first years of the program; soy methyl ester at 31 percent is not. Palm methyl ester is rated at 56 percent if methane emissions at processing facilities are mediated and only 19 percent if methane is not controlled. Waste-based biodiesel scored above 80 percent in GHG reductions. GHG emissions can be reported using either the default values or actual values can be used, Dominicis said, a policy that should create incentives to improve GHG reduction performance for different fuel pathways. The regulations will also allow the updating of default values and GHG methodology when new science or evidence is available or new fuel pathways created, she added.

Direct land use change is addressed in the EC policy with the prohibition of eligible biofuels coming from land converted from high-carbon stock areas, such as wetlands, continuously forested areas or undrained peatlands. While the permanent conversion to cropland is prohibited, Dominicis added that biomass from those lands could be used. "You could use the forest, but you can't clear the forest and convert it to cropland," she said. Guidelines on how to identify such areas are currently in development.

Dominicis said the indirect land use issue is being studied now by the EC in two tracks. One group is examining the current science while another is exploring possible policies. She gave no hints whether indirect land use will ultimately be incorporated into the EC policy. A preliminary consultation conducted this summer solicited comments from industry, several EU states, and potential exporting countries that elicited a range of responses relative to incorporating indirect land use change effects. A fall consultation on the full policy will be open to the public on the directorate's Web site.

While the EC directive set the end of 2010 as the deadline for the new policies, the goal within the Directorate for Environment is to have the sustainability criteria and indirect land use issue determined by the spring of 2010, giving time for the individual member-states to incorporate the policies into their national implementation plans.

Winkler addressed the fossil fuel component of the FQD in the Webinar, too. A system to collect national fuel quality data is being developed, he said, along with a system for monitoring compliance with the new GHG reduction and sustainability goals, including specifying appropriate analytical methods to measure compliance. The system will allow some flexibility, Winkler added, mentioning as an example the potential for special specifications for states with low ambient temperatures that impact biodiesel blends and variances for vapor pressure levels for ethanol blends.

The Directorate for Environment is also working on the methodology to determine nonbiofuel GHG emissions, as well as the baseline value for the fuel mixture used in 2010, he added. The goal is to develop technology-neutral approaches to achieving a 6 percent reduction in carbon intensity for suppliers of energy used in road transport and nonroad mobile machinery between 2011 and 2020.

To learn more about the EC renewable energy policies visit

IDB releases new Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard
The Inter-American Development Bank has released a new version of its Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard to help developers anticipate the impacts of potential biofuel projects. The first version of the interactive, Web-based tool was released a year ago and addressed 23 variables including GHG emissions, water management, biodiversity and poverty reduction. The updated version includes new social categories addressing issues related to indigenous people, local grower arrangements and impacts on food security, among others. The scorecard includes a spatial analysis tool that enables users to quickly access Geographic Information System data regarding areas for biodiversity preservation. Future versions will add data layers to show the spatial dimensions of water scarcity, cultural sites and high carbon sequestration, among other parameters. To access the scorecard, visit

-Susanne Retka Schill
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