EU adopts 10 percent mandate

By Susanne Retka Schill | January 15, 2009
The European Union turned voluntary goals into mandatory requirements when it adopted the Renewable Energy Directive issued by the European Parliament on Dec. 17. A 10 percent mandate for renewable content in transportation fuels is part of the new 20-20-20 plan that calls for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for all energy compared with 1990 levels, a 20 percent increase in the use of renewable energy and a 20 percent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency, all by 2020.

Transportation fuels, including biofuels, electricity and hydrogen, are included in the 20 percent increase in renewable energy usage. The 10 percent mandate for renewable content in transportation fuels was set after much discussion over lowering the target. It replaces the voluntary targets of 5.75 percent by 2010 and 10 percent by 2020, which were adopted in a 2003 policy.

In a separate Fuel Quality Directive adopted on the same day, the European Union increased its B5 standard to B7. While the Renewable Energy Directive will phase in climate change reduction goals over the next decade, the new blending standard can be implemented within the next two years by member states. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) will publish the revised standard by June.

The European Biodiesel Board said the 10 percent requirement for 2020 sends a stronger signal to Europe's biodiesel industry. "In times of economic recession when different sectors are hit by declining investment, the [requirement] is essential in order to pave the way for even more ambitious developments of renewable energy in the transport sector," the EBB stated. The board is projecting the requirement to create a demand for 34 million metric tons of both biodiesel and ethanol. Current European biodiesel production capacity is 16 million metric tons (4.8 billion gallons).

The specific GHG reduction target for biofuels is 35 percent, compared with fossil fuels, and will be enforced in 2011. For biofuels producers that began operation in January 2008, the requirement will take effect April 1, 2013. In 2017, the requirement increases to a 50 percent reduction, and for new producers after 2017, the target will be 60 percent. Targets for GHG emission reductions include not only fossil fuels, but also biofuels, electricity and hydrogen. The new directive requires fuel suppliers to reduce GHG emissions caused by extraction or cultivation, including land-use changes, transport and distribution, processing, and the combustion of transport fuels.

A separate European initiative focusing on sustainability criteria is expected to be complete by the end of 2009, giving the European Commission time to review the language for inclusion in the climate change directive. The Renewable Energy Directive offers incentives for more sustainable biofuels by allowing second-generation biofuels to be double-credited in the 10 percent target. The directive calls for the European Commission to develop a methodology to measure GHG emissions from indirect land use by 2010.
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