European organization respond to proposed changes to the RED

By Erin Voegele | October 03, 2012

The European Biogas Association and the Renewable Energy Association have weighed in on the European Commission’s plans to alter its biofuel policy. In September, a commission proposal was leaked. It stated that European governments are considering altering the Renewable Energy Directive to place more emphasis on advanced feedstocks. The European Commission has indicated that the proposed changes would maintain the goal of replacing 10 percent of the E.U.’s transportation fuel with renewable fuel by 2020, but would place a 5 percent cap on crop-based fuels.

According to the EBA, the European Commission’s u-turn on biofuels policy threatens Europe’s market leadership in biogas production. “The commission’s draft proposal on [indirect land use change (ILUC)] campaigns irrationally and inconsistently against the E.U.’s own long-term targets on reducing emissions in the transport sector,” the EBA said in a statement, noting that the proposal also jeopardizes green jobs, including the approximately 40,000 German workers employed by the biogas industry.

The EBA also points out that the amount of biogas sold into the transportation fuel market is increasing, as are the number of stations being developed to distribute the fuel to customers. “This is not least due to the E.U.’s previous transport and climate policies,” said the EBA. “This positive development will be at stake particularly in Europe’s biogas engine, Germany, if the Commission’s new, irresponsible, proposal will be passed.”

According to the EBA, it supports the commission’s proposal of a 60 percent carbon dioxide reduction level for biofuels, but contests the 5 percent cap on crop-based biofuels. The organization said that a level playing field with the rest of the world is needed to sustain European competitiveness and that biofuel caps and targets that are stricter than those established elsewhere in the world will create disadvantage to the European biofuel industry and increase the amount of fuels imported into the region.

The EBA is also calling on the European Commission to take the unique characteristics of biogas into account in its ILUC proposal. “With the leaked proposal, biomethane for transport would be distorted by a stricter CO2 reduction obligation than for biomethane injected into the grid and subsequently used for CHP or heating and cooking purposes,” the EBA said in a statement.

The REA asserts that the draft E.U. proposals would devastate the U.K.’s biofuel industry. “If implemented, the proposals would shift the goalposts for the industry so dramatically that millions of pounds of investment could be wasted, including in the most advanced UK businesses,” said the organization.

According to the REA, four elements of the draft proposal are particularly problematic, including the limitation placed on crop-based biofuels, the removal of subsidies for crop-based biofuels after 2020, the 60 percent GHG savings requirement for all new plants in operation after July 2012, and the proposed ILUC factors in the Fuel Quality Directive. The REA said it believes that these elements of the proposal would pull the rug out from under the U.K.’s biofuel industry while leaving the transportation sector dependent on fossil fuels.

“The U.K. industry is particularly vulnerable to these proposals because it is small and because investment has been hindered by the lack of clear domestic policy. The great irony is we have been repeatedly asking for a clear pathway to 2020, not least to secure investment in technological advancement. Nobody listened. Now Europe is planning a quantum leap which threatens to wipe us out. It is a double whammy and an absolutely galling prospect for companies that have invested millions in good faith,” said Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport at the REA. “The UK biofuels industry has shown a tremendous willingness to achieve and exceed environmental and sustainability standards. Yet these sustainable biofuels, which are making a real contribution to reducing carbon emissions here and now, are not getting the recognition they need and deserve because they have been unfairly tarnished by the controversy over unsustainable biofuels. Investment is already suffering because of a half-hearted policy framework, but it will dry up altogether if these proposals go through.”