The European Commission has decided to make sure that biofuels used in the EU are from sustainable sources. Member States have agreed on an overall EU target of 10% use of renewable energy in the transport sector, of which 6% to 9% must come from biofuels.
The new proposal means that only biofuels which meet the special ‘certification’ scheme will count towards meeting the national targets. About 30% (2007) of the EU’s biodiesel comes from imports and most of that comes from the USA and Brazil. Campaigners have objected that developing countries will cut down their forests in order to grow biofuels to supply the lucrative EU market for renewables.
The European Commission’s move is designed to stop that happening. If agreed, the new rules would mean that the EU will not certify biofuels that come from land converted from forests, wetlands or nature protection areas, and that using them will not be counted in a country’s efforts to meet the targets set.
It also proposes that only biofuels with high yields and high efficiency can count and lays down how this is calculated. The new scheme applies to all biofuels, home-grown and imported.
To meet the overall target for renewables, each country has agreed to national targets, set according to where they were in 2005. Ireland has to bring up its national use of renewables to 16%, across all energy sectors.
For biofuels in transport (2008), Ireland comes in at 1.6%, somewhat below the overall EU average of 3.4%. Germany is in the lead with 6%, followed by France (5.7%), Austria (5.5%) and Sweden (5%).
The rules for certification schemes are part of a set of guidelines explaining how the Renewable Energy Directive, coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented.