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EU biofuels policy uncertainty continues

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Lack of clarity at European level reinforces need for strong domestic policies.

The European Council today failed to reach a political agreement on how to account for indirect land use change (ILUC) in biofuels policy [1]. ILUC factors are intended to account for the emissions of other land-using industries that bring previously undeveloped land into production as an indirect result of crops being used to make biofuels.

REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska said:

“The failure of EU policymakers to reach agreement today means that the ILUC saga will not be closed before the European elections in May next year. It is anyone’s guess at this stage how many more months, or years, the ILUC uncertainty will continue.”

The UK Government has capped the use of biofuels in UK transport fuels at 4.75% in 2014 and has given no indication on how it intends to reach the 2020 target of 10% renewable transport [2]. Given the ongoing uncertainty at EU level, the REA is calling on Government to set out a clear trajectory to the 10% target, along with appropriate measures to support the development of advanced biofuels, and the ongoing decarbonisation of the electricity sector so that electric transport can make a meaningful contribution to decarbonisation in the future.

Dr Nina Skorupska added:

“The Government has always maintained it would wait for certainty on ILUC before setting out a trajectory to the 2020 transport target. Given the indefinite delay on ILUC at EU level, this is no longer tenable if the UK is to have any chance of meeting the 2020 transport target. DfT must be bold and set policies now if the UK is to achieve the new jobs, industrial regeneration and emissions savings opportunities on offer through to 2020.”

Over £1 billion has been invested so far in the UK sustainable biofuels industry, which turns over £500 million per annum and supports 3,500 jobs across the supply chain, mainly in manufacturing, science and engineering. Biofuels produced from UK feedstocks grown by British farmers achieve 75% greenhouse gas savings on average while producing substantial quantities of high protein animal feed, reducing our dependence on imports [3]

Renewable Energy Association represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It is the largest renewable energy trade association in the UK, with approximately 1,000 members, ranging from major multinationals to sole traders. For more information, see: www.r-e-a.net

1. The European Council’s compromise position, which was rejected today, recommended:

a. A cap on crop-based biofuels at 7% of transport energy by 2020

b. The reporting, but not accounting, of ‘ILUC factors’ in the Renewable Energy Directive

c. A discretionary sub-target for advanced biofuels made from unconventional feedstocks, such as algae or wastes

d. Multiple counting of advanced biofuels at x2, electric vehicles at x5 and electric rail at x2.5

While the REA considers ILUC to be a fundamentally unsound basis for policymaking, this position is much-improved on previous proposals, which would have cost the budding biofuel industry thousands of jobs without setting an effective transition pathway to advanced biofuels.

The Council will hold a press conference at 12:15 CET (11:15 GMT) available at: http://ceuvideo.eu/775-979-13780

2. The 2014 UK cap is set at 4.75% by volume, while the EU-wide 2020 target is 10% by energy. As biofuels have a lower energy content than conventional fossil fuels, the 10% energy target will require a level of biofuels in the fuel mix greater than 10% by volume.

3. REA: ‘UK Biofuels Sector – Key Facts & Figures’, 25th June 2013. Available at: www.r-e-a.net/resources/pdf/120/201306_Briefing_UK_Biofuels_Sector.pdf

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