EU renewables directive sparks mixed feelings among players

Source: ICIS News


BRUSSELS (ICIS)--Industry sources showed on Tuesday mixed feelings about the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II proposals which would exclude crop- and feed-based biofuels from biofuel mandates from 2021.

As well as excluding crop and feed based biofuels, the RED II proposals would drop the EU's biofuel mandate from 10% in 2020 to 1.5% in 2021, increasing to 6.8% by 2030.

The focus of the proposed legislation will be on advanced and waste-based biofuels, power-to-gas or liquid, and renewable electricity.

However, some industry participants viewed the RED II proposals as a way to potentially discourage investment in second-generation biofuels.

Charles-Albert Peers, CEO of ethanol producer Alcogroup and chairman of the European trade group for renewable ethanol ePURE, criticised what he called a “U-turn” in EU policy.

“RED II removes one of the best options for decarbonising transport. I don’t see how we can talk about investment in second generation biofuel when we have a U-turn in policy,” he said.

“How can the industry be expected to invest for 15-20 years’ time, without knowing the position of the commission in future years. There is no stability.”

Peers added that a possible solution would be to limit palm oil and palm oil methyl ester (PME) use rather than suppressing all biofuels.

The official view from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, came from Andreas Gumbert from the Directorate-General (DG) for Climate Action, who said that it was important to start the transition to low emission vehicles, particularly electric vehicles, but adding that it was also important to work with the internal combustion engine that is currently in supply.

“Biofuels produced from food crops have a very limited potential in decarbonising. They have an impact but cannot be the sole policy. We want to see the transition from food-crop based biofuels to advanced biofuels,” said Gumbert.

He added that the proposed legislation would be applicable to fuel suppliers, rather than the 28 EU member states, which the current directive focuses on.

“Member states do not have any interest in keeping individual national mandates. What we cannot do is oblige the member states to do something which they do not want to do,” he said.

However, Thomas Schroder, vice president of biorefining at Novozymes, told attendees that policies worldwide indicate that ethanol use will actually double by 2030.

“All cars look likely to be electric by 2030-2040. I’m not against electric cars, I believe we need both [electric- and biofuel-run transport]. None [of these technologies] can decarbonise fast enough on their own,” he said.

“Green carbon will continue for many years to be a much cheaper option for society. Global policies are pointing to this dual energy reality, especially outside of Europe, where it is a much more open conversation.”

The three players were speaking at the 20th F.O. Licht World Ethanol and Biofuels conference taking place in Brussels, which this year has focused on how the EU directive would impact the global ethanol market.

Pictured: a biofuels gas station in Spain
Source: Global Warming Images/REX/Shutterstock

Focus article by Samantha Wright