Biofuels are liquid or gaseous transport fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol which are made from biomass. They serve as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in the EU's transport sector, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the EU's security of supply. By 2020, the EU aims to have 10% of the transport fuel of every EU country come from renewable sources such as biofuels. Fuel suppliers are also required to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of the EU fuel mix by 6% by 2020 in comparison to 2010.
Biofuels and sustainability
For biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without adversely affecting the environment or social sustainability, they must be produced in a sustainable way. The EU therefore sets rigorous sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids.
Companies who want the biofuels they grow or use to be eligible for government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, must comply with these sustainability criteria. They can prove their compliance through national systems or so-called voluntary schemes recognised by the European Commission.
Land use change
Growing biofuels on existing agricultural land can displace food production to previously non-agricultural land such as forests. Because trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, removing them for biofuel production may result in an increase in net greenhouse gases instead of a decrease.
To combat indirect land use change, new rules came into force in 2015 which amend the legislation on biofuels – specifically the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive.
Reports on emissions from cultivation of raw materials for use in biofuels
According to Article 19 (2) of the Renewable Energy Directive, EU countries were required to submit to the Commission reports including a list of those areas on their territory classified as NUTS2 or as a more disaggregated NUTS level, where the typical greenhouse gas emissions from cultivation of agricultural raw materials could be expected to be lower than or equal to the emissions reported under the heading ‘Disaggregated default values for cultivation’ in part D of Annex V to the Directive, accompanied by a description of the method and data used to establish that list. These reports can be found here:
Pre-ILUC Directive NUTS2 reports of cultivation emissions
An overview table of pre-ILUC Directive NUTS2 cultivation emissions values can be found on this page.
Since 2015, Directive (EU) 2015/1513, which amended the Renewable Energy Directive, has made it possible for such reports to be submitted to the Commission by territories outside the EU. Also according to this Directive, the Commission may decide, by means of an implementing act adopted in accordance with the examination procedure, that reports submitted by EU countries and by countries outside the EU contain accurate data for the purposes of measuring the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the cultivation of biofuel and bioliquid feedstocks typically produced in those areas. These reports can be found here:
Post-ILUC Directive NUTS2 or equivalent reports of cultivation emissions
The Implementing Acts formally recognising the above post-ILUC NUTS2 or equivalent reports of cultivation emissions can be found here:
Recognition of report of GHG emissions from the cultivation of canola oilseed in Australia
Recognition of report of GHG emissions from the cultivation of canola oilseed in Canada
Biofuels for aviation
Biofuels can serve as a renewable alternative to jet fuel in airliners but are currently not produced on a large commercial scale for this purpose. To help spur the commercial development of biofuels for aviation, the European Commission and its partners have launched the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath.
Quality standards for biofuels
Working together with the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the EU aims to develop and improve the technical quality standards of biofuels and biofuel blends for vehicle engines. The practical work is carried out by CEN Technical Committee 19, consisting of experts from the automotive and fuel industries, biofuels producers, and other stakeholders.