UK proposes to increase biofuel obligations, cap crop-based fuels

By Erin Voegele | September 21, 2017

The U.K. Department for Transport has published proposals that aim to increase the amount of renewable fuel in the transportation energy mix and make several other changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has cautiously welcomed the proposed changes, but said the proposals will not allow the U.K.’s biofuels industry to reach its full potential.

The Department for Transport opened a consultation on the proposals in November 2016 that ran through Jan. 22. On Sept. 14, the department issued its response to the consultation and outlined the next steps that will be taken by the U.K. government.

According to the Department for Transport, the U.K. government will increase the RTFO to 9.75 percent in 2020, increasing to 12.4 percent in 2032. An additional sub-target is being added for development fuels, defined as advanced renewable fuels made from waste that are eligible for double reward, including hydrogen, substitute natural gas, aviation fuels and other fuels that be blended at rates of at least 25 percent while meeting gas and diesel standards. That sub-target calls for 0.1 percent development fuels in 2019, increasing to 2.8 percent in 2032. The Department for Transport noted the proposal marks the first time renewable aviation fuels and renewable fuels of non-biological origin will qualify under the RTFO scheme. The proposal also caps crop-based fuels at 4 percent in 2018, reducing in equal increments annually starting in 2021, and reaching 3 percent in 2026 and 2 percent in 2032.

The U.K. REA said that while the increase in the RTFO is welcomed by industry, capping the use of crop-based fuels threatens domestic jobs and manufacturing capabilities. The organization called the decision to cap crop-based biofuels “disappointing,” and said it could risk U.K. jobs and investment. The U.K. REA also criticized the proposal for excluding biogas-based fuels from qualifying under the development fuels sub-target.  

“The REA is pleased that the amount of renewable fuel will now be increased, which gives biofuels producers, especially those using waste as feedstock a bigger market to go for,” said Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the U.K. REA. “However, the decision to decrease the use of sustainable crops in renewable fuel production to 2 per cent raises the question whether fuel suppliers will supply an increasing amount of renewable bioethanol.”

“The government’s own Transport Energy Task Force recommended that increasing the amount of renewable bioethanol into petrol to 10 percent would be the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions from petrol,” she said. “If this fuel is not introduced this would destroy an immediate route to low carbon fuels and improved air quality.”

 “Our AD biogas producers will also be disappointed that their biomethane, largely derived from food and organic farm waste, will not qualify as a Development Fuel,” Skorupska continued. “Renewable gas can play a major role in decarbonizing the heavy transport, a major contributor of carbon emissions.”