Limiting Crop-Based Biofuels

The Commission wants to limit the amount of arable land that is set aside for biofuel production.

In order to achieve this, the use of crop-based biofuels – needed to meet the 10% renewable energy target in the transport sector by 2020 - would be limited to 5%, under a proposed new Directive.

The Commission says that this will stimulate the development of alternative, so-called second generation biofuels from non-food feedstock, like waste or straw. These emit substantially less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and do not directly interfere with global food production.

Member states would also report on Indirect Land Use Changes (ILUC) emissions. When biofuels are produced on existing agricultural land, the demand for food and feed crops remains, and may lead to someone producing more food and feed somewhere else.

This can lead to land use change (by changing e.g. forest into agricultural land), which in turn can increase amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

Context

This proposed Directive follows a Commission Communication on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). In its Communication, the Commission proposed a Directive amending RED and FQD, which is says will promote the use of biofuels without hampering food production.

Under current legislation, ILUC factors are not taken into account in reporting of GHG emissions in the carbon stock of land. The Commission's position is that this could have a negative effect on the EU’s climate change targets, when crop-based biofuels may produce even more GHG than fossil fuels.

This proposal then outlines amendments to the FQD and RED and also includes new rules. 

Amendments to the Fuel Quality Directive

The proposal addresses greenhouse gas emission reductions. Member states would, by 31 March each year, report to their national authority concerning biofuel production, pathways, volumes and the life cycle GHG emissions.

Sustainability criteria

It also discusses the sustainability criteria for biofuels. The GHG emissions saving from the use of biofuels would be at least 60 % for biofuels produced in installations starting operation after 1st July 2014. Under current rules this is 35%.

For installations in operation on or before 1 July 2014, GHG emissions savings from biofuels would be at least 35% until 31 December 2017 and at least 50% from 1 January 2018.

Current rules define these limits at levels of at least 50% from 1 January 2017. For installations in operation on or after 1 January 2017 the level of GHG emissions savings is 60% from 1 January 2018.

Calculation of life cycle

The proposal also tackles the calculation of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels. The Commission says it will prepare a report in the estimated typical and default values in Parts B and E of Annex IV by 31 December 2012 and every two years after.

The Commission would also be empowered to adopt Delegated acts to account for the adaptation to technical and scientific progress in Annex IV and Annex V of FQD. It may also adopt Implementing acts.

Monitoring and reporting

Monitoring compliance and reporting and exercise of the delegation are also covered. The proposal includes clarifications that account for new Comitology rules under the Comitology Regulation. New article on exercise of the delegation has been inserted in alignment with these new rules.

Annexes

There are also amendments to Annexes. The annual emissions from carbon stock changes caused by land-use change will be calculated by dividing total emissions equally over 20 years. An annex on estimated ILUC emissions from biofuels for cereals and other starch rich crops, sugars and oil crops would be added.

Also an Annex for biofuels for which estimated ILUC emissions are considered to be zero (e. g. forest land, grassland, wetlands, settlements, or other land, to cropland or perennial cropland would be added.

Amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive

Some definitions would be changed. For example, a new provision would be inserted defining the term waste according to the Directive 2008/98/EC on waste. Intentionally modified or contaminated substances modified to meet that definition are not covered by this category.

National targets

Mandatory national targets and measures for the use of energy from renewable sources are also discussed. New provisions have been added to the RED on the maximum joint contribution from biofuels and bioliquids produced from cereal and other starch rich crops, sugars and oil crops. This will be no more than 5% of the final consumption of energy in transport in 2020.

The list of biofuels in Annex IX may be amended by the Commission’s Delegated acts.

Energy share and sustainability criteria

The proposal also mentions the calculation of the share of energy from renewable sources. Under the proposal, the Commission would be empowered to adopt Delegated acts to account for the ad1aptation of the energy content of transport fuels as set out in Annex III.

The Commission also amends sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids. The GHG emissions saving from the use of biofuels would be at least 60 % for biofuels produced in installations starting operation after 1st July 2014. Under current rules this is 35%.

For installations in operation on or before 1 July 2014, GHG emissions savings from biofuels would be at least 35% until 31 December 2017 and at least 50% from 1 January 2018.

Current rules define these limits at levels of at least 50% from 1 January 2017. For installations in operation on or after 1 January 2017 the level of GHG emissions savings is 60% from 1 January 2018.

Calculation of life cycle

As far as the calculation of life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels is concerned, the Commission would be empowered to adopt Delegated acts to account for the adaptation to technical and scientific progress in Annexes V and VIII of the RED. It may also adopt Implementing acts.

In preparing their reports on biofuels GHG emissions savings, member states may use the typical values in Part A and B of Annex V and add the estimates for ILUC emissions outlined in Annex VIII. A new article on exercise of the delegation has also been inserted in alignment with the new rules on Comitology.

Annexes

The proposal also makes amendments to Annexes. Annual emissions from carbon stock changes caused by land-use change would be calculated by dividing total emissions equally over 20 years.

A new Annex VIII would also be added. Part A sets out estimated ILUC emissions from biofuels for cereals and other starch rich crops, sugars and oil crops. Part B lists biofuels for which estimated ILUC emissions are considered to be zero (e. g. forest land, grassland, wetlands, settlements, or other land, to cropland or perennial cropland).

Annex IX would also be changed. Part A lists feedstocks whose contribution towards the target shall be considered to be four times their energy content (e. g. algae, biomass fraction of mixed municipal waste, biomass fraction of industrial waste, straw etc.). Part B list feedstocks whose contribution towards the target shall be considered to be twice their energy content (e. g. used cooking oil, animal fats, non-food cellulosic material etc.).

Review

The Commission will submit its review report to the European Parliament and the Council before 31 December 2017, if appropriate accompanied by legislative proposal into the appropriate sustainability criteria to be applied from 1st January 2021 and a review of the effectiveness of the incentives provided for biofuels from non-land using feedstocks and non-food crops.

Transposition

The provisions of this proposed Directive should be transposed into national legislation 12 months after adoption at the latest.