EU reaches deal on REDII, sets new goals for renewables

By Erin Voegele | June 14, 2018

On June 14, negotiators from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council reached a deal on a revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) that sets new targets for renewables.

Information released by the European Parliament notes that the provisional agreement calls for energy from renewables to account for at least 32 percent of the EU’s gross final energy consumption in 2030, with an upwards revision clause by 2023. The agreement implements an “energy-efficiency first” principle, which means that measures to make energy demand and supply more efficient will be prioritized in all energy planning, policy and investment decisions.

For biofuels, the agreement states that at least 14 percent of transportation fuel must come from renewable sources by 2030. First-generation, crop-based biofuels are capped at 2020 levels—with an extra 1 percent—but cannot exceed 7 percent of final consumption of road and rail transport. In addition, the share of advanced biofuels and biogas must be at least 1 percent in 2025 and at least 3.5 percent in 2030. Food crops, such as palm oil, that result in high indirect land use change (ILUC) are to be phased out through a certification process for low-ILUC biofuels.

Under the provisional deal, member states must ensure that an EU consumer is entitled to become a renewable self-consumer. This includes the ability to generate renewable energy for their own consumption, and store and sell excess production, among other requirements.

For the heating and cooling sector, the provisional deal provides a sub-target of an indicative 1.3 percent yearly increase of renewables in heating and cooling installations, calculated on a period of 5 years starting from 2021.

According to the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM), the REDII agreement will also set the first European-wide sustainability criteria for solid biomass. In a statement, AEBIOM said it welcomes the risk-based approach, including the 20 MW threshold and criteria themselves.

An infographic published by AEBIOM explains that for bioenergy to account toward the overall renewable energy targets and gain public financial support, the biomass will need to meet sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission saving criteria. Exemptions are given to waste and industrial residues, for which only GHG criteria and a few other elements apply. Exemptions are also given to installations below 20 MW for solid biomass fuels and 2 MW for gaseous biomass fuels, unless member states decide otherwise.

The GHG savings criteria for biofuels, biogas and bioliquids begin at 50 percent before 2015, and increase to 60 percent after 2015 and 65 percent after 2021. For electricity, heating and cooling production from biomass fuels, the GHG reduction criteria are set at 70 percent after 2021 and 80 percent after 2026. Percentage reductions are compared to fossil fuels.

For electricity-only installations, energy generated will only be accounted to targets and supports if fossil fuel is not used as the main fuel; if facilities of 50-100 MW meet best available technology associated energy efficiency levels or use biomass carbon capture and storage (CCS); and if facilities above 1000 MW have an electrical efficiency of 36 percent or apply biomass CCS.

A range of sustainability criteria are set for both agricultural biomass and for forestry biomass.

In a statement, AEBIOM said the approach ensures that biomass is produced sustainably, irrespective of geographical origin, without creating unnecessary administrative burden on small installations and countries with a well-established system of forest management. AEBIOM also noted the provisional deal also recognizes the role of cofiring, allowing bioenergy to play a key role in energy transition while ensuring that biomass is not prolonging the life of old coal installations.

“You will always find people to complain about the criteria,” said Jean-Marc Jossart, AEBIOM secretary-general. “But for the first time the European legislators gives a sustainability roadmap to the solid bioenergy sector. Despite controversy, policy makers decided to take a challenging but pragmatic approach considering field realities.”

ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association, said the provisional deal recognizes the importance of crop-based ethanol in achieving climate goals.

“Europe needs all sustainable renewables in the energy transition to achieve Europe’s climate goals and ethanol is critical to transport decarbonization,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, secretary general of ePURE. “Of course, this is not a perfect solution. Allowing Member States to undermine the transport target by lowering the crop cap or relying on artificial multipliers gives the illusion of progress and puts Europe’s commitment to decarbonizing transport into question. Capping crop-based biofuels at 2020 levels also unfairly penalizes sustainable biofuels like European renewable ethanol, which if given the chance could drive EU decarbonization even further—but it is a major improvement over the initial proposal from the Commission.”

“Member States should now get on with the work of implementing the 2020 objectives and show that Europe is a place that can provide the policy stability investors need. A solid crop-based ethanol industry is needed to spur investment in advanced ethanol,” Desplechin said.

Novozymes has also spoken out on the provisional deal. Tina Sejersgård Fanø, executive vice president of agriculture and bioenergy at Novozymes, said the compromise on REDII should provide necessary clarity and direction for investment, but criticized the deal for limiting the contribution of sustainable conventional biofuels.

“That is at odds with the international consensus that they are necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement. All good solutions are needed in the energy transition required to achieve Europe’s climate goals—and sustainable biofuels are critical to transport decarbonization,” Sejersgård Fanø said. “We also regret the amount of multipliers that can be used to achieve the transport target; these are misleading European citizens on the real level of ambition—and provide more space for the continuous use of fossil fuels in transport. We believe it is important now that Member States quickly implement the REDII into ambitious, national legislation, with limited use of multipliers, to ensure that investments in renewables are made early on—and for Europe to be on track to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the mid-century.”

Now that a provisional deal on the REDII has been reached, the text of the directive must be formally approved the European Parliament and the Council. Once endorsed by both co-legislators in the coming months, the REDII will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and will enter into force 20 days after publication. Member states will then have to transpose the new elements of the directive into national law 18 months after its entry into force.