AEBIOM gives feedback on new renewable energy directive post-2020

By Katie Fletcher | March 07, 2016

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) recently responded to the public consultation on the preparation of a new renewable energy directive (REDII) for the period post-2020. The renewable energy package and an updated EU bioenergy sustainability policy are part of the European Commission’s Energy Union Framework Strategy released in February last year. The consultation period began last month on Feb. 10 and concludes May 10 for public input on the EC’s post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy.

In 2014, a comprehensive evaluation study of the current renewable energy directive (RED) was carried out, and the main findings were included in the 2015 Renewable Energy Progress Report. The current RED was included in the EC’s 2013 REFIT program, created to ensure all member states will contribute to reaching 20 percent renewable at EU-level by 2020. In October of 2014, the European Council agreed at least a 27-percent share of renewables by 2030 would be a new binding EU-level target for final energy consumption. AEBIOM’s recent consultation builds on the REFIT evaluation and aims at obtaining additional information on the impacts and benefits associated with the RED.

AEBIOM addresses a number of different factors in its response to the survey, emphasizing points about biomass considerations in its comments on much of the questionnaire.  The areas covered in the consultation include the general approach, empowering consumers, decarbonizing the heating and cooling sector, adapting the market design and removing barriers, and enhancing renewable energy use in the transport sector.

The consultation report states, “given that the renewable energy target for 2030 is binding on the EU as a whole, the EC will need to have means to ensure that this target is met in a sustainable and cost-effective way.” A number of EU objectives are stated in the consultation, including the need to create a market-based environment in which renewables can attract the required investments cost-efficiently; foster regional cooperation and regional projects; empower consumers to deploy cost-optimal renewable energy solutions; incentivize the roll-out of new and innovative technologies; and ensure that any potential gap arising in reaching the at least 27-percent renewable energy target, in terms of either ambition or delivery, is filled.

The survey states that an improved functioning energy market, with improved price signals, as well as a strengthened EU ETS shall improve the investment signal. Although, it’s reasonable to expect the main policy tools used by member states to implement their renewable energy objectives will be support schemes and other incentives (financial and regulatory). A new regional approach to renewable energy policy cooperation and incentives should be considered in order to drive the achievement of the 2030 target in a cost-effective way, which does not lead to fragmentation and distortion of the internal energy market.

The first question addressed in the consultation report asked about to what extent the RED has been successful in helping achieve EU energy and climate change objectives. AEBIOM believes it’s been successful, but some areas deserve to be improved or better implemented. In comment to this question, AEBIOM stated fossil fuels subsidies should be urgently phased-out and carbon outside the ETS sectors should be priced, as it is done today in member states that have introduced a carbon tax.

Besides phasing out fossil fuels subsidies, AEBIOM listed a number of other complimentary EU measures like making full use of right of initiative to reflect COP21 level of ambition; building a robust governance system; proposing differentiated EU mechanisms for target deliver; and assessing conditionality of financing tools.

AEBIOM indicated that the geographical scope of support schemes should be at the national level and open to national renewable energy producers. The organization selected this scope for support schemes due to the many possible uses of biomass to produce energy. Biomass can create heat, electricity or biofuels; it can be used in many different types of installations; and there are many different biomass feedstocks. Member states vary in their uses of biomass, so in this context, AEBIOM states, “it would be very difficult to define harmonized EU support schemes that would be adapted to all these situations.”

AEBIOM emphasized that it should not be forgotten that self-consumption not only concerns the power sector, but also exists in the heating and cooling sector (individual biomass stoves and boilers). When it comes to self-consumption of biomass, AEBIOM believes one should differentiate between private consumers and industries. “Self-consumption of electricity produced from biomass is not in place today. In the future, micro-generation installations could be developed and provide an opportunity to provide an opportunity to private consumers to produce both heat and electricity in their house, provided that this is allowed on the legal side.”

 AEBIOM shared in its questionnaire comments that the biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) municipality plant format to provide heat and electricity could be further developed provided that administrative, competitiveness and financial barriers are removed.

Ideas for improving public acceptance towards renewable energy projects and related grid development was asked in the questionnaire. AEBIOM stated as far as biomass is concerned an important aspect of public acceptance is sustainability, and the organization is in favor of an EU harmonized sustainability policy.

Renewable energy use in the transport sector was identified as being a particular challenge in the consultation, 94 percent of EU transport relies on oil products, of which 90 percent is imported and represents a growing share of carbon emissions. AEBIOM states, “It is important to promote alternative fuel infrastructure both for electric vehicles and for high-blend or pure biofuels like E85, ED95, HVO100 and biogas. EU needs to strengthen its commitment to production and use of biofuels for transport, in particular for second generation biofuels.”

AEBIOM’s full response to the consultation on the preparation on the RED for the period following 2020 can be accessed here.