MEP proposal ups renewables targets, phases out crop-based fuels

By Erin Voegele | October 24, 2017

Members of the European Parliament are calling for the European Union to source 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, set nationally binding targets for renewable energy, phase-out of palm oil and food-based biofuels and set biomass sustainability standards.

On Oct. 23, Environment MEPs proposed to increase the share of renewables to at least 35 percent of the EU’s gross final consumption of energy by 2030.

Information released by the European Parliament notes the proposal is part of ongoing reform of the EU’s renewable energy directive. In 2009, that directive set a 20 percent by 2020 target for the EU, with individual targets for each member country. The European Commission has also proposed to prolong the scheme to 2030, but proposed a 27 percent target as an EU-wide goal.

Draft legislation proposed by the MEPs also calls for the share of biofuels to be no more than 7 percent of final consumption of energy in road and rail transport, and for no food-based biofuels to be subject to minimum targets at the EU level. In addition, it calls for food-based first-generation biofuels to be phased out by 2030, with palm oil-based fuels to be phased out by 2021. 

Regarding biomass, the MEPs’ proposal sets sustainability criteria for biofuels, bioliquids and biomass. According to information released by the European Parliament, the sustainability criteria aim to minimize the risk allowing unsustainable forest biomass to benefit from support schemes.

The Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted 32 to 29 to adopt the proposal. The Committee on Industry is expected to vote on a portion of the proposal Nov. 28.

The European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) has issued a statement on the Environment Committee’s treatment of biomass in the proposal. “In the final adoption of its opinion, the ENVI Committee has decided tonight to address the sustainability issue both seriously and pragmatically, allowing solid bioenergy to continue playing its essential role in the European energy transition,” said Jean-Marc Jossart, secretary general of AEBIOM. “While this vote acknowledges the positive work and contribution of thousands of local bioenergy players, it also calls into question the systematic bioenergy bashing that occurred surrounding this debate. We are now counting on the entire Parliament and Member States to follow the approach taken by the Commission, and endorsed by the ENVI Committee, to support bioenergy in its role in achieving the EU’s climate and energy goals.”

ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association, is speaking out against the proposal’s treatment of first-generation biofuels. “The vote shows a very divided European Parliament,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, secretary general of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association. “Even as they adopted a higher and binding renewables target, MEPs cannot agree about what to do with transport, a sector that accounts for a quarter of the EU’s total emissions. On the one hand, they have adopted a high ambition to decrease the carbon intensity of transport fuels; on the other hand, they are banning European crop-based biofuels a few years after promoting them.”

“The European Parliament ITRE Committee and Plenary must now realize that the constant changes in the EU’s policy on crop-based biofuels will discourage investment in advanced biofuels—thus defeating one of the goals of the Commission’s proposal,” Desplechin continued. “As the most recent Council text recognizes, most EU Member States see investment certainty for crop-based biofuels as a ‘sine qua non’ for adequate future investment. That is why they want to set a 15 percent target for renewable energy in transport and maintain the current 7 percent cap on crop-based biofuels.”