EU's transport sector continues to rely on oil – Bioenergy Europe/ePURE report
Biofuels represent 89 percent of all renewable energy sources in transport and its role in the decarbonisation of the transport sector in the EU will be pivotal in the coming years. And yet, in absolute terms, fossil oil in transport still accounts for 92 percent of final consumption. Worse still, oil consumption is on the rise, according to a report by Bioenergy Europe, in collaboration with the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE).
For the second time since its launch in 2007, the 2020 Statistical Report published by Bioenergy Europe (previously known as AEBIOM) is being split into different publications, each chapter one covering a different aspect of bioenergy. Bioenergy Europe has released the third chapter of its Statistical Report 2020 focusing on biofuels for transport.
Like in 2019 the report was produced in collaboration with the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) and it provides accurate, up-to-date data on the current state of play of biofuel consumption, production, and different feedstocks.
Fossil fuels on the rise
Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and its share continues to grow. To achieve climate neutrality, a steep reduction in transport emissions is needed by 2050.
The report reveals that the share of biofuels in transport has increased over the last decade. The production of biofuels within the EU28 grew at an average rate of 3.5 percent between 2017 and 2018 with biodiesel being the main driver.
However, in absolute terms, fossil oil use in transportation still accounts for 92 percent of final consumption. More worrying still, is that after several promising years of decreased oil consumption (2007 – 2013), the share of oil has once again begun a steady increase, growing by almost 6.6 percent between 2013-2018.
According to Bioenergy Europe and ePURE, this calls into question the credibility of the EU’s path to decarbonization if it fails to tackle one of the most polluting sectors.
Potential and advantages evident
Biofuels’ potential is evident, but the numbers also show another picture – renewable solutions are not sufficiently supported. An analysis of the consumption of advanced biofuels such as waste and residue-based biofuels reveals that the EU is far from achieving the target of 3.5 percent by 2030 as set by the REDII.
The advantages of biofuels are manifold, including the easy integration to the existing technology and infrastructure, allowing for considerable savings of processing, manufacturing costs, and energy.
Moreover, biofuels foster the circular economy particularly through the use of waste and residues such as animal fats and used cooking oil (UCO) which already accounts for almost 30 percent of the feedstock used for biodiesel/HVO production.
Innovative biorefineries successfully process European agricultural feedstock including crops, wastes, residues into renewable fuels, reducing GHG emissions, and the reliance on imported feedstocks.
As these new figures show, renewable EU ethanol is already making a positive impact in the climate fight – reducing emissions from the petrol cars that will remain predominant on Europe’s roads for years to come without the need for new infrastructure. As policymakers look at how to achieve the transport decarbonisation goals of the EU Green Deal, they should unleash the full potential of European renewable ethanol, said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary-General of ePURE.
Political will, coherence, and consistency needed
Political will, coherence, and consistency are, the signatories contend, condiciones sine quibus non to make a real leap forward in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. All sustainable renewable low-carbon fuels should be able to contribute towards EU climate and renewable objectives under REDII sustainability criteria. Financing renewables in transport is therefore key to achieve the objectives.
To date, advanced waste and residues based advanced biofuels – estimated to potentially save up to 90 percent of GHG emissions – were excluded from the list of sustainable fuels elaborated by Technical Expert Group in the context of the taxonomy regulation.
How can transport be decarbonised? One solution put forward by the signatories to promote the uptake of renewables in transport, is through an effective carbon pricing policy, in particular through an Energy Taxation Directive that focuses on the carbon intensity of the fuel instead of volume.
A coherent policy framework should be accompanied by measures that promote investors’ confidence. By giving the industry the right tools to operate, biofuels’ potential can be progressively exploited, reaching its expected role in the decarbonisation of the EU.
The biofuels sector has the real potential to transform the EU’s transport sector into a sustainable and green system. As too often we have seen in the past, there is a lack of political will lack and ambition when it comes to implementing the necessary strategies. We need more and sooner, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General, Bioenergy Europe.