The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On April 3, 2017, the European Environment Agency (EEA) announced the publication of the report titled “Renewable Energy in Europe 2017:  Recent Growth and Knock-On Effects,” which demonstrates that renewables have been a major contributor to the energy transition in Europe.  An analysis of the compound annual growth rate demonstrated that the use of biofuels in transport grew fastest between 2005 and 2014 at 18 percent per year.  Renewables provided six percent of the energy used for the European Union’s (EU) transportation sector in 2014, with biofuels accounting for nearly 90 percent of renewable energy.  According to the report, a plateau in first-generation biofuel capacity and delays in overcoming technical and financial obstacles related to second-generation biofuel technologies resulted in fewer investments in biofuels in 2015, compared to 2005.  The report also stated that electricity from solid biomass increased seven percent from 2005 to 2014, but the implementation of sustainability criteria could influence future growth in solid biomass fuel.  The full report is available on the EEA website.


 

On March 14, 2017, European Bioplastics (EUBP) welcomed the outcome of the European Parliament’s plenary vote on the waste legislation proposal in which the Members of Parliament recognized the contributions of bioplastics to the European Union’s (EU) circular economy.  EUBP highlighted amendments to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive that encourage Member States to support the use of biobased packaging and to improve market conditions for such materials and products, and amendments to the Waste Framework Directive that incorporates organic recycling in the definition of recycling, which will result in a separate collection of bio-waste across Europe.  According to EUBP, the plenary’s vote strengthens the biobased economy and supports the goal of reducing dependence on fossil resources while demonstrating that re-use and recycling remain a priority in the pursuit of an EU circular economy.


 
■  Euractiv, “Parliament Committee Says Palm Oil Biofuels Usage Should End by 2020
 
■   Bellona, Opportunities and Risks of Seaweed Biofuels in Aviation
 
■  Pacific Business News, Hawaii’s Largest Oil Refinery Owner in Talks with Biofuel Developers
 
■  Chemical & Engineering News, “Nestlé, Danone Look to Renewable Bottles

 

 

On November 30, 2016, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), released a statement in response to the publication of the European Commission’s (EC) proposal on the revised Renewable Energy Directive (Directive) for 2021 to 2030.  The aim of the Directive is to raise renewable energy usage in Europe to 27 percent by 2030.  In the revised Directive, the EC introduced a mandate requiring fuel suppliers to include a minimum share of advanced biofuels in their offering, which will increase steadily between 2021 and 2030.  Neste highlighted the fact that for the first time renewable solutions from the aviation and marine sectors are included in the biofuels blending mandate.  Neste stated the proposal would support biofuels use and development in Europe, and provide predictability that would allow companies to plan their long-term operations and investments.  The proposal requires approval from the European Council and the European Parliament before it becomes official.


 

On November 3, 2016, the European Commission announced that 144 new green and low-carbon projects from 23 Member States will be funded by a €222.7 million investment from the European Union (EU) budget, which will be combined with €175.9 from additional investments.  The funding comes from the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding body for the environment and climate action, with the goal of progressing Europe towards a more sustainable future.
 
The selected projects align with the EU’s objective to reduce GHG emissions and transition to a more circular economy.  Examples of 2015 projects include:  

 

Implementation of Biodolomer®, a fossil-free biomaterial, in place of plastic packaging for four commercial reference products;

 

Production of biopolymers for the tanning industry using recycled biomass from the tanning process; and

 

Incorporation of cultivated banana organic waste fibers as an additive to create bioplastic covers to protect banana treats from UV radiation.

 

On October 11, 2016, the Biofrontiers platform, a group of industry and civil society stakeholders brought together by the European Climate Foundation, released policy recommendations for the European Union’s (EU) 2030 climate policy.  The group stated that the transport sector has become the largest source of carbon emissions in the EU, and is therefore an urgent area to tackle following the Paris climate change agreement.  Policy recommendations put forth by the Biofrontiers platform, as stated in the Biofrontiers report, include:
 




 
Energy and climate policy for 2030 should ensure deep cuts to lifecycle emissions and safeguard food, soil, water and biodiversity. Incentives should be linked to the availability of sustainable feedstocks.  Site-specific assessments are needed to create confidence in feedstock supply chains.
 


 
Within [current EU energy policy focusing on fuels with low carbon intensity], support for advanced alternative fuels should be prioritised.
 


 
A realistic and responsible binding target for fuel suppliers for advanced alternative fuels in 2025, with a higher target range set for 2030.
 



 
Policymakers should have regard to other objectives in forestry, climate, agriculture and waste management.  Where there may be competition between liquid transport fuel production from wastes and other waste management options, policy should “encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome,” as required by the Waste Framework Directive.
 

 
Any 2030 policy framework should be designed with flexibility to allow novel fuel technologies and different feedstocks to be eligible for support as they arrive on the market, subject to life cycle analysis and sustainability assessment.

 

On September 21, 2016, Pannonia Ethanol, a Hungarian biofuels company, spoke out against the European Commission's (EC) Low-Emission Mobility Strategy . The strategy recognizes the importance of biofuels in reducing road emissions, and plans on replacing ethanol that is currently being blended into traditional fuels with advanced biofuels. This has spurred concerns for the ethanol industry, as ethanol is increasingly phased out of government emission reduction initiatives in favor of advanced biofuels. Mark Turley, CEO of Ethanol Europe, said of the new strategy, "Incentives and policy support are essential to develop [a European Union] advanced biofuel industry. However, the Commission's new strategy lacks realism, further undermines confidence and is incapable of delivering the emission reduction targets set out."


 

On September 5, 2016, a group of non-profits, including Oxfam International, Fern, and Greenpeace, published a report outlining policy measures that should be taken by the European Commission (EC) to ensure that bioenergy is as low-carbon and resource efficient as possible. The report, "A New EU Sustainable Bioenergy Policy Report," was published after EC stated a willingness to listen to new proposals to improve sustainable bioenergy policies. EC is planning on proposing an updated bioenergy sustainability policy for the use of biomass in heating, electricity, and transport by the end of 2016, as part of the Climate and Energy Package for 2030. To ensure the sustainability of new bioenergy policies, the report discusses the need and practicality of implementing the following safeguards:

  • A limit to the use of biomass for energy production to levels that can be sustainably supplied;
     
  • An efficient and optimal use of biomass resources, in line with the principle of cascading use;
     
  • Robust and verifiable emission savings on the basis of correct carbon accounting for bioenergy emissions; and
     
  • A comprehensive, binding set of environmental and social sustainability criteria.

This report proposed sustainability criteria across all energy uses of biomass that has been grown on land, as well as residues, waste, and side-products, but not for biomass from aquaculture and marine areas.


 

On July 21, 2016, the European Court of Auditors released Special Report No 18/2016: The EU system for the certification of sustainable biofuels. This report assessed the existing biofuels sustainability certification framework of the European Commission (EC) and highlighted key issues with the system. Issues with the certification framework could undermine the European Union's (EU) 2020 goals for renewable energy. The report determined that the EC does not properly track working conditions occurring during biofuel production, indirect land use-change (ILUC) caused by biofuel production, and environmental requirements of feedstock sources. The Court made several recommendations based on the audit:

1. For future recognitions, the Commission should carry out a more comprehensive assessment of voluntary schemes to ensure that the schemes:
(i) assess the extent to which certified biofuels production entails a significant risk of negative socioeconomic effects and of ILUC. To this end, the Commission should require voluntary schemes to report once a year based on their certification activities any relevant information concerning the above mentioned risk;
 
(ii) effectively verify that EU biofuel feedstock producers comply with EU environmental requirements for agriculture;
 
(iii) provide sufficient evidence of the origin of waste and residues used for the production of biofuels.
2. For future recognitions, the Commission should assess whether the voluntary schemes' governance reduces the risk of conflict of interests and request the voluntary schemes to ensure transparency.
 
3. The Commission should supervise recognised voluntary schemes by:
(i) checking that the schemes'certification operations comply with the standards presented for recognition;
 
(ii) requesting voluntary schemes to set up a transparent complaints system.
4. The Commission should propose that the Member States support their statistics with evidence on the reliability of the biofuels quantities reported.
 
5. To ensure comparability of the statistics on sustainable biofuels and to increase assurance on the reliability of data on advanced biofuels, the Commission should propose to the Member States a harmonisation of the definition of waste substances.
Tags: EU, EC, 2020, Biofuel

 
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