Sustainable crop-based biofuels remain the main source of renewable energy in transport, but are still needlessly restricted in how much they can help meet climate goals
BRUSSELS, 31 January 2023 – The EU is still overly reliant on fossil fuels for transport and Member States are lagging behind in efforts to promote renewable energy sources such as sustainable biofuels, according to new EU data. The new figures confirm the importance of preserving a role in Fit for 55 policies for proven solutions such as crop-based biofuels to meet ambitious climate goals.
According to updated figures from 2021 in Eurostat’s SHARES database, the EU remains far from curbing its use of fossil fuels. The data show that in 2021 the share of renewable energy in transport (RES-T) at EU-27 level was 9.1% including multipliers under RED II. That represents a 1.2% decrease from 2020, mainly due to a change of methodology under RED II, but also to the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis which saw a strong increase in total transport energy consumption paired with a mild increase in renewable energy consumption.
Importantly, a significant amount of the reported renewable energy consumption is still artificially inflated using multipliers for certain biofuels or renewable electricity – which give a misleading picture of progress towards climate goals.
Under the new RED II methodology in 2021, only seven EU Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden) are above 10% RES-T, which was the target for 2020 under RED I. While Finland and Sweden have already largely incorporated renewables in their transport energy mix, already surpassing the 14% RED II target for 2030, other countries have barely made any progress in this regard and still rely massively on fossil fuels.
Crop-based biofuels represented the majority of renewables in transport with 54.3%, despite volumes of sustainable crop-based biofuels being excluded from contributing to the RES-T due to the existence of a cap under the RED II methodology. Annex IX-A and B feedstock-based biofuels accounted for 11.7% and 15.4% respectively.
“Under the revised RED II the EU needs to speed up progress,” said David Carpintero, Director General of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association. “The 13% GHG emissions reduction target would be equivalent to 28% RES-T with the RED II methodology. In other words, the EU would need to triple in 9 years what it has barely accomplished in the last 20 or so years. If the Commission keeps restricting the use of proven solutions such as sustainable crop-based biofuels, we will have to rely on accounting tricks and multipliers to achieve the objectives of Fit for 55.”
For many EU countries, boosting renewables in transport could be achieved now by adopting E10, containing up to 10% renewable ethanol, as a standard petrol grade. Some countries, such as France, are already using E85, with up to 85% renewable ethanol.
“The choice is clear: do we want real renewables such as sustainable biofuels that actually contribute to the fight against climate change, or artificial renewables – multipliers that exist only on paper and do nothing to reduce emissions?” said Carpintero. “Replacing crop-based biofuels with multipliers, as some in the German government want to do, only leaves the door open for more fossil fuels.”
“The way forward should be clear to policymakers,” Carpintero added. “Crop-based biofuels such as renewable ethanol are the most immediate, cost-effective, sustainable and socially inclusive emissions-reduction solution the EU has. Unleashing their potential should be a paramount goal for this year if Europe truly wants to deliver on its 2030 objectives and beyond.”