Agrofuels and Biofuels Update (EU)

COM (2012) 595 is the European Commission’s Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 98/70/EC concerning the quality of petrol and diesel fuels (EU Fuel Quality Directive) and amending Directive 2009/28/EC concerning the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (EU Renewable Energy Directive). COM (2012) 595 proposes to limit global land conversion for biofuel production. The use of food-based biofuels to meet the 10% renewable energy target of the Renewable Energy Directive will be limited to 5%.

Directive 2009/28/EC (the Renewable Energy Directive) sets binding targets for the development of renewable energy (RE), which is to account for 20 % of all energy consumption by 2020. Member States are given a high degree of flexibility in implementation, in that they are free to decide which sector (electricity, heating/cooling or transport) they wish to focus on.

This flexibility is qualified when it comes to the transport sector, however: here the Directive requires a minimum share of 10% of energy consumption. Initially the plan was to stipulate this share in the form of biofuels, but following criticism from the EESC and the EP (other EU statutory consultees) it is agreed that other types of renewable energy (such as electricity from renewable sources used in cars and trains; biogas; etc.) could be deployed.

Thus, the amendments being proposed intend to restrict “conven­tional agrofuels” and effect a transition to “advanced biofuels”, which supposedly do not pose a risk of indirect land-use change. Biofuels defined as “advanced” by the Commission are liquid fuels, including those manufactured from biogenic rubbish/waste or algae. The Commission believes that their production should be supported because they are not currently commercially available in large quantities. Incentives are to be provided by increasing the weighting of advanced biofuels towards the 10% target for transport set in Directive 2009/28/EC.

The proposal is to:
(A) limit the contribution of conventional biofuels to the targets set by the Renewable Energy Directive to no more than 5% of energy use in transport, or no more than half the 10 % target;
(B) encourage “advanced biofuels” (with no or low indirect land-use change), not least by weighting them in calculations so that they contribute more to the targets in the Renewable Energy Directive than conventional agrofuels;
(C) improve the greenhouse gas performance of biofuel production processes (reduce emissions) by increasing the emission savings achieved with new facilities;
(D) improve reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by obliging Member States and fuel suppliers to report emissions linked to indirect land-use change caused by biofuels.

Progress on COM (2012) 595 may be observed here

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