The transport sector, alongside industry and buildings, is the main energy user and source of emissions and is still heavily dominated by fossil fuels. Despite readily available solutions, in 2019 the share of renewables in transport was a mere 6.81%.
According to the latest data from the 2021 Biofuel Statistical Report released on 22 July, trends and projections are insufficiently reassuring. Consumption of biofuels has constantly grown in the last decade with sustainable biofuels accounting for 89% of renewable energy in transport. Despite a growth in biofuel consumption in the last decade, with biofuels as the main source of renewable energy in transport, the sector remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels. This is mainly because of policies that hinder the use of biofuels.
The equation is simple: to deliver on EU Green Deal net-zero objectives, bold and forward-looking policy frameworks are crucial. Current data cast doubt on the real impact of the existing renewable energy policy framework and political commitment to decarbonising the transport sector.
Tools and targets are already in place. The European Commission’s Climate Target plan suggests that by 2030, renewables in the transport sector must increase to approximately 24% through further development of renewable solutions including advanced biofuels. The revision of the Renewable Energy Directive offers the opportunity to set new and more ambitious targets that will speed up the uptake of biofuels. The Fit-for-55 packages provides a unique chance to accelerate the penetration of biofuels in the transport sector and foster system integration.
It is important that this opportunity is not wasted by prioritising some solutions at the expense of others. In order to transform the transport sector, a combination of biofuels, renewable electricity and other low-carbon solutions will be needed to curb the current high level of GHG emissions. The EU cannot afford to simply wait for new technologies to develop when it has existing and proven solutions that can make an immediate impact on reducing transport emissions.
Biofuels not only contribute to the much-needed decarbonisation of both the energy supply and demand, but are also an integral part of a vibrant European circular economy. Refineries maximize the sustainable use of land and waste materials and reduces reliance on fossil fuel. In 2020, with the unprecedented COVID19 health crisis, several EU-based ethanol producers were even able to promptly switch production from biofuels to disinfectant production when Europe needed it most. This flexibility played a key role in overcoming the shortages witnessed in the EU and expanding the sector will be essential to creating a more resilient Europe for the future.
Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary General at Bioenergy Europe highlighted: “Efforts should focus on decarbonising both the energy supply and demand by phasing out fossil fuels. Only through a rapid shift to low-emission mobility EU Green Deal’s ambitious net-zero goals can be effectively reached. He adds that “Biofuels –the largest renewable energy source in transport – will continue to be a concrete and viable solution to reducing road, aviation, and waterborne transport emissions.”
Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General at ePURE added: “The lesson from these numbers is clear: biofuels such as renewable ethanol have been the main driver in replacing fossil fuels in EU transport – but it hasn’t been enough. The potential contribution of sustainable biofuels to the fight against climate change has been minimised and hamstrung by policies that limit their use and instead artificially inflate the contribution of other renewables with multipliers. For Europe to achieve its Green Deal goals, it needs to unleash the power of EU ethanol.”
Xavier Noyon, Secretary General at European Biodiesel Board concluded: “To deliver on the European Green Deal climate objectives, a single, long-term and coherent framework for sustainable feedstocks is key: what is sustainable on the road, should be sustainable for aviation and bunker fuels. In addition, the tailpipe approach for CO2 emissions in the road transport is a non-sense that does not allow to consider the biogenic carbon neutral fuels, and jeopardises the possibility for biofuels like sustainable biodiesel to increase their contribution alongside electrification and other technologies. We need all renewable energy sources to be fit for 55.”