EU Needs Advanced Biofuels Boost to Reach Climate Goals, Transport Decarbonisation
by Marko Janhunen (EurActiv/Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels) The International Energy Agency confirms that sustainable biofuels are needed to secure transport decarbonisation. The European Parliament’s Industry Committee, for its part, confirms the need to set a specific mandate for advanced biofuels, writes Marko Janhunen.
The European Parliament’s industry committee last week assessed the Commission’s proposal for a review of the renewable energy directive (REDII) published a year ago. The ITRE vote confirms their support of the obligation for advanced biofuels for the next decade.
With a binding target to increase biofuels made from feedstock listed in Annex IX part A from 0.5% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2030, the industry committee backed the current development of industrial production capacity.
This is in line with the International Energy Agencies (IEA) “Technology Roadmap: Delivering Sustainable Bioenergy” whose updated version was published last week. The roadmap identifies the necessity of advanced biofuels for a successful decarbonization of the transport sector.
According to the IEA, biofuel consumption must triple by 2030, with advanced biofuels contributing two-thirds to that. This would call for an expansion of the current advanced biofuels production by at least 50 times by 2030.
In Finland, UPM operates the world’s first commercial-scale biorefinery for the production of renewable wood-based diesel. ST1 has begun production of cellulosic ethanol from sawdust and Kaidi plans to build a biorefinery worth €900 million.
Specialty chemicals company Clariant recently announced investment in a biorefinery in Romania converting agricultural residues into cellulosic ethanol. Also, Enviral, Slovakia’s largest producer of bioethanol, announced plans to integrate advanced ethanol production with its existing facilities in Slovakia.
ENERKEM, headquartered in Canada, will build a large-scale plant in Rotterdam to transform municipal solid waste into clean transportation fuels. EnergoChemica is building a second generation biorefinery in Slovakia and in the UK, Renescience opened the world’s first commercial-scale facility transforming waste into recyclables and energy in 2017.
Within the EU boundaries, there are plenty of opportunities to develop advanced biofuels in a sustainable manner optimised to the specificities of the different member states. Most importantly, feedstock is available in practically all member states, as demonstrated by several studies (e.g. Wasted: Europe’s untapped resource).
However, the rate at which electric vehicles are being introduced is much slower than expected. This means that European citizens in 2030 will still predominantly drive cars with an internal combustion engine – powered by liquid fuels.
For planes and heavy-duty vehicles, electrification is even further away. Business as usual in the liquid fuels market is therefore not an option: If the global warming is to be kept well under 2 degrees Celsius, Europe has to take action now and introduce sustainable transport fuels such as advanced biofuels.
The recent history of biofuels in Europe show one thing: advanced biofuels will not simply fall from the sky. After years of discussing the right policy framework, it is high time to send a clear signal to investors. This is where the REDII currently under discussion can make a real difference.
The introduction of an advanced biofuels obligation will lead to a stable and predictable business environment that reinforces investors’ confidence. As the IEA in its roadmap recommends, mandatory obligations for the deployment of sustainable novel fuels and for specific subcategories that are at different stages of technical and market maturity are needed. READ MORE