Voluntary schemes

Voluntary schemes and national certification schemes of EU countries help to ensure that biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels fuels are sustainably produced by verifying that they comply with the EU sustainability criteria.

As such, the schemes check that

  • production of feedstock for these fuels does not take place on land with high biodiversity
  • land with a high amount of carbon has not been converted for such feedstock production
  • biofuel, bioliquid and biomass fuel production leads to sufficient greenhouse gas emissions savings

Several schemes also take into account additional sustainability aspects such as soil, water, air protection and social criteria. For the certification process, an external auditor verifies the whole production chain from the farmer growing the feedstock to the biofuel producer or trader.

While the schemes are run privately, the European Commission can recognise them as valid.

Voluntary schemes under the recast Renewable Energy Directive

The EU sustainability criteria are extended to cover biomass for heating and cooling and power generation in the recast directive (EU)2018/2001. EU countries were required to transpose the new rules by 30 June 2021 and the voluntary schemes have to adjust the certification approaches to meet the new requirements.

Interested voluntary schemes are invited to apply for recognition by the Commission under the new sustainability framework. More information about the recognition process can be found in the call for interest and the updated assessment protocol.

Recognition criteria

For a scheme to be recognised by the European Commission, it must fulfil criteria such as

  • feedstock producers comply with the sustainability criteria
  • information on the sustainability characteristics can be traced to the origin of the feedstock
  • all information is well documented
  • companies are audited before they start to participate in the scheme and retroactive audits take place regularly
  • the auditors have both the generic and specific auditing skills needed with regards to the scheme's criteria

Recognition for a voluntary scheme can last for a period of 5 years.

Approved voluntary schemes and national certification schemes

The European Commission has so far not recognised voluntary schemes, or national certification schemes of EU countries under the recast Renewable Energy Directive ((EU) 2018/2001).

The Commission has received applications for recognition under the directive from the following voluntary schemes and national certification schemes:

Austrian Agricultural Certification Scheme (AACS), Biomass Biofuels voluntary scheme(2BSvs), Better Biomass, Bonsucro EU, International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC EU), KZR INiG system, REDcert, Red Tractor Farm Assurance Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Scheme (Red Tractor), Roundtable of Sustainable Biofuels EU RED (RSB EU RED), Round Table on Responsible Soy EU RED (RTRS EU RED), U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol EU (SSAP EU), Scottish Quality Farm Assured Combinable Crops (SQC), Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops (TASCC), Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS), Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) (only fpr certification of forest biomass), Sustainable Resources (SURE) voluntary scheme, and European Renewable Gas Registry (ERGaR) (only for certification of cross-border trade of biomethane).

The Commission has made a preliminary positive assessment of the following voluntary schemes:

2BSvs, Better Biomass, Bonsucro EU, ISCC EU, KZR INiG, REDcert, Red Tractor, RSB EU RED, RTRS EU RED, SQC, TASCC, UFAS and SURE.

The Commission expects the recognition of the first voluntary schemes under the recast directive to happen in the short term. The recognition by the Commission is not a pre-requisite for certification. EU countries may accept evidence from voluntary schemes or national certifications schemes set up by EU countries that are not recognised provided they if the required assurances. In order to avoid market distortions, such recognition is advisable in the transition period.