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.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On April 4, 2017, the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed HB 1580, which sets a goal of having all ground transportation in Hawaii run on renewable fuel by 2045. The bill, which does not contain an enforcement mechanism, provides a benchmark framework for achieving the ambitious target and establishes an intermediate target to reduce the sale of imported fuels by five percent in 2025. The Senate Committee introduced amendments that clarify the bill does not create a mandate to move to 100 percent clean ground transportation, but it outlines a path to achieve such a goal. According to the bill, clean ground transportation includes all transportation that avoids the consumption of fossil fuels.
On March 9, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that its My Renewable Diesel helped reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6.7 million tons in 2016. The reduction of carbon emissions from MY Renewable Diesel is equivalent to the removal of 2.4 million passenger cars from the road for one full year. The low-carbon diesel, which is refined from renewable raw materials, is suitable for all diesel-powered passenger cars and heavy transport vehicles, including buses, garbage trucks, and emergency vehicles, without the need for vehicle-related investments or modifications. Neste aims to increase the total annual GHG emission reduction volume to seven million tons in 2017.
On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act. The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources. The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent. According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department. The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.
On December 6, 2016, EPA held a hearing on its proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support rule. The proposed rule would update the regulatory structure to allow biofuel producers to process and convert biomass at different facilities, update fuel regulations to allow for more high-ethanol fuel blends in flex fuel vehicles, and permit cellulosic biofuels to be produced from new feedstock sources. Testimony provided by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) focused on the impact of the proposed rule on the development of the E15 market and strengthening ethanol flex-fuel provisions. Geoff Cooper, the senior vice president of RFA, stated that RFA was opposed to EPA establishing a quality survey program to collect and analyze ethanol flex-fuel samples, and highlighted the different treatment between E10 and E15 regarding volatility. Chris Bliley, the director of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy, also pushed EPA to resolve the vapor pressure relief issue, stating that the proposal would isolate E15 as the only ethanol-blended fuel without Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) relief in conventional areas. Bliley supported the development of cellulosic biofuels through the use of biointermediates and new pathways, as well. More information on the proposed rule is available in the BRAG blog post EPA Announces Public Hearing For Proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2016. Comments are due by January 17, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. (EST).
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 29, 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) Department of Transportation published proposed legislative changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which is open for consultation until January 22, 2017. Among the proposed changes is an increase in the blending mandates to 9.75 percent by volume for 2020. The three main proposals outlined detail increasing the supply of waste derived fuels, encouraging the production of advanced renewable fuels, and setting a maximum cap for fuels from food crops. The aim of the consultation is to determine whether further measures could be taken to minimize costs.
The RTFO was established to achieve the targets for renewable energy usage in the transportation sector set by the European Union by incentivizing fuel suppliers to provide biofuels at the lowest cost possible. The objective is to encourage investment in renewable fuels so that the relative cost of biofuels decreases over time.
As previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group’s (BRAG®) Biobased and Renewable Products Update of November 11, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a notice in the Federal Register of a public hearing for the proposed “Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule.” The proposed rule updates the regulatory structure to allow biofuel producers to process and convert biomass at different facilities, update fuel regulations to allow for more high-ethanol fuel blends in flex fuel vehicles (FFV), and permit cellulosic biofuels to be produced from new feedstock sources. EPA is seeking comment on the programs covered in the proposal, as well as renewable identification number (RIN) generation for renewable transport fuels and regulatory requirements for facilities that could use carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the future production of renewable fuels. More information about the proposed rule is available in the BRAG blog post “ EPA Announces Public Hearing For Proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule. ” The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2016. Comments are due by January 17, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. (EST).
On October 3, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule. This proposed rule includes suggestions to improve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and related pro-renewable fuel regulations. Updated regulations included in the proposed rule include allowing biofuel producers to process feedstock and then convert the material into fuels at different facilities, and an expansion to the availability of high-ethanol fuel blends. The proposed rule allows increases to the types of feedstocks that biofuels can be produced from, allowing cellulosic biofuels to be produced from short-rotation poplar and willow trees; renewable diesel and biodiesel to be produced from non-cellulosic portions of separated food waste; and cellulosic diesel to be produced from compressed cellulosic feedstocks and petroleum. Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.