High-level policy conference on

"Improving EU Energy Security with Advanced Biofuels"

25 February 2016 at 10h00

Venue: European Parliament, Brussels


Secretary General Rasmussen,

President Buzek,

MEP, Helveg-Petersen,

Mr Holk Nielsen,

Members of this House,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today, shortly after the Commission presented its Security of Supply legislative package, and on the day when we mark the first year's anniversary since the Energy Union Strategy was adopted and unveiled.

Indeed, the discussion about advanced biofuels is highly relevant for the Energy Union in general and our security of supply and decarbonisation of transport in particular.

Transport is responsible for no less than one third of Europe's energy consumption and a fourth of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Other than the environmental footprint, given that our transport sector relies almost entirely on imported oil, we are highly sensitive to fluctuations in the oil market.

The need to decarbonise the transport sector is therefore multi-fold:

  • it reflects our climate commitments, those we have set to ourselves and reiterated in Paris;

  • it is about our energy security and decreasing our dependence on volatile markets;

  • it is about the price we are paying for imported energy, which might be lower now but it is still hundreds of millions of euros – every day;

  • finally, it is about the development of quality jobs here in Europe in the fields of renewables and greentech.

    Yet, let us be honest; decarbonising the transport sector won't be easy. It will require a gradual transformation of the entire transport system and hence an integrated approach to transport policy.

    There is currently no silver bullet or single fuel solution which can provide our entire needs. All main alternative fuel options must be pursued in a comprehensive and technology neutral way, in line with the clear mandate from the European Council in October 2014.

    In this regard, advanced biofuels can become part of the solution. I am very happy about the significant research done in this field, here in Europe, and particularly by Novozymes which has already registered no less than 6,000 patents!

    This is rather significant for our economy, for creating high-quality jobs through innovative products. In the mid-term, advanced biofuels can play an important role in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels at potentially similar costs to petrol and diesel. Moreover, advanced liquid biofuels are the only low carbon option for substituting kerosene in aviation, as they have high energy content.

    As you know, last fall, the EU adopted the ILUC Directive with the aim of taking a broad approach to promote solid greenhouse gas savings from biofuels, taking indirect impacts into account. It also aims to foster transition towards advanced biofuels, in particular by limiting contribution from conventional biofuels towards the 20% renewables target for 2020 to maximum 7%.

    Our post-2020 framework will further improve the fair level-playing field for innovative technologies like advanced biofuels, while allowing necessary flexibility for the Member States.

    We are currently working on a Communication on decar-bonisation of transport which will tackle transport efficiency, the deployment of electric vehicles, second and third generation biofuels and other alternative transport modes.

    In order to have a truly holistic approach, we will publish this Communication before summer, together with the proposal for Effort Sharing decision in the non-ETS sector and proposal on integration of the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sector (LULUCF) into the 2030 climate framework.

    Before end of the year, the Commission also plans to adopt a proposal for a Renewable Energy Package, taking into account the results of intensive analytical work ongoing and the public consultations.

    The proposal will also address questions of sustainability of all forms of bioenergy which are essential if we were to increase their share. We will therefore put in place a sustainability policy for the use of bioenergy in heat, electricity and transport. On this question, a separate consultation was launched and I strongly encourage you to contribute before it closes on 10 May.

    Of course the Commission's role is not confined to legislation only. Given the important role of sustainable fuels in Europe's transport energy mix, the Commission is also providing financial support.

    Since 2013, the NER300 funding programme for innovative low-carbon energy has made an important contribution to financing industrial-scale demonstration projects. One third of the selected projects so far involve bioenergy or biofuels. Two of them are already operational: BEST in Italy and Verbiostraw in Germany.

    Horizon 2020, our largest Research & Innovation programme has also contributed. In its two years of existence (since 2014), Horizon 2020 has provided €82.7 million to advanced biofuels and bioenergy projects, and we expect this to continue in the coming years.

    Meanwhile, our services are continuously exploring other aspects of our increasing use of bioenergy, such as its longer-term availability, its environmental performance post-2020, and the possible competition between sectors over biomass resources.

    Let me conclude by thanking you once again for this very timely event. As you know 2016 will be a critical year for the Energy Union as we intend to put forward 90% of the legislation proposed in the Strategy by the end of this year.

    Our hands are therefore full and contributions such as today's events are useful, insightful, and constructive. It is of utmost importance to bring the industry and EU decision makers around the same table to see how we can provide a stable regulatory environment in order for you to invent, to innovate, to imagine.

    I often refer to our energy and climate transition as the “5Ds model”. This means we must proceed with (1) Decarbonisation of our economies, bring even more (2) Democratisation into energy production and consumption, profit from its (3) Digitisation to optimise energy use and efficiency, improve the (4) Diversification of our energy supplies and help our innovators to deliver on new technologies to speed up the whole process by progressive (5) Disruption of traditional energy cycles.

    The 'fifth D' is critical: disruptive technologies would speed up and ease up the transition. I don’t think that the change will be achieved through one single revolutionary invention. Rather, I expect we will continue to see technological breakthroughs – some of them clearly transformational – and I hope advanced biofuels will prove to be one of those. I can assure you that we will be your allies in this attempt.

    Thank you very much.