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EU renewables roadmap turbo charges waste demand while crops wither

The European Commission has published its heavily pre-leaked proposal for a redraft of the bloc’s renewable fuel policy post-2020, confirming ambitions to expand renewable fuel consumption while cutting the share of the market allowed to first generation crop-based biofuels.

The commission wants member states to hit a 27% share for renewables across member state’s energy slate by 2030. Recommendations for the road transport fuel sector’s obligations include a harmonised incorporation rate across the EU “to ensure consistency in transport fuel specifications and availability.”

Staying neutral, but while taking sides

The policy describes itself as technology neutral, but will allow member states leeway to discriminate against particular types of biomass and biofuel. Member state could for instance set caps on crop-based biofuels below the 7% starting threshold

recommended by the commission, with oil crops singled out as a specific example of discrimination in practice. The commission confirmed it wants the absolute limit for crop-based biofuels in the EU road transport fuel mix to be slashed to 3.8% by 2030.

Waste-derived advanced biofuels will be expected to supply the renewables share of the EU’s road transport fuel mix from the beginning of 2021, when member states will have to deliver at least 1.5% of their transport fuel from advanced sources, including half a percent to be delivered from inputs not derived from either animal fats or used cooking oil.

Advancing advanced targets

This overall advanced biofuel mandate will rise to a 6.8% share by 2030 to bridge the shrinkage in crop-based biofuel consumption. Used cooking oil and animal fat however will see their share of the advanced biofuel mandate fall to less than half by the start of 2018 under the existing RED directive.

Investors in new production plants will face increasingly stringent greenhouse gas savings requirements. Plants operating before 5 October 2015 boasting a less than 50% GHG reduction will face closure, with the threshold rising to 60% for plants build after that date and 70% for plants starting operation after 1 January 2021.

Renewable electricity plants will have to deliver an 85% GHG saving after 1 January 2026.

Scrutinising the auditors

Voluntary sustainability schemes auditing greenhouse gas savings will be subject to increased scrutiny by the commission meanwhile, with a requirement that they deliver an annual report on their activities.

Producers lament

Both the European biodiesel board (EBB) and European renewable ethanol association (ePURE) reacted immediately to the proposal, expressing disappointment at the proposed phase out of first generation biofuels and the resulting threat to EU agricultural demand.

The new crop cap will result in higher fossil fuel imports, job losses across both agriculture and biofuels sectors, and “endanger the EU’s ability to meet its COP21 obligations”, EBB said, while attacking the commission’s permission to discriminate between feedstocks as unscientific and there “unjustified”. The 3.8% crop cap will meanwhile undermine “the existing €16 billion invested in European biofuel production facilities since 2003”, ePure added.

Both parties voiced concern that advanced biofuels will be unable to fully substitute the loss of conventional biofuels in the transport sector, saying the new policy would create an “impossible policy environment” for investment in both advanced and conventional biofuel production facilities in Europe.

MS/NB 2/12/2016

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