Multiple-Authorship blog platform on issues related to sugarcane cultivation and industrial applications
As I mentioned in the first blog of the year, 2016 is the ‘year of implementation’. The year we will have to put together the measures needed not only to achieve the 2030 Framework targets and Energy Union goals, but also the COP21 Agreement. Certainly a Herculean task for all parties involved! I wanted to reflect a bit more on this…
This means producing lots of papers, spending hundreds of hours thinking about what we have done right or wrong so far and – ultimately – finding a compromise that benefits everyone. Not just the EU institutions, but also consumers and the climate. COP21 gave a long-term general direction to everyone: we are officially transitioning towards a low-carbon future and need to phase out fossil fuels. How we will get there is the real question we have to address now.
Commissioner Cañete recently said at an event in Brussels that we have to admit the mistakes of the past and not be afraid of learning from them. I think everyone can agree to that statement. From energy efficiency to renewable, including bioenergy, the Commission is giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to a broad range of issues on which legislative proposals are expected. We have a number of things to say and questions to ask.
On the planned review of the Renewable Energy Directive for example, we were disappointed to see that no target was considered for renewables in transport. With liquid fuels retaining a crushing majority of the market share until 2030 and even beyond, the Commission needs to promote sustainable biofuels such as sugarcane ethanol to make sure transport can also contribute to reaching the overall 27% target.
Take also the Effort-Sharing Decision, which is about how Member States will reduce emissions in sectors which are not covered by the EU ETS (heating, transport, agriculture). The transport sector is likely to be drawn upon heavily given its potential for lower emissions. This is where higher ethanol blends can help by providing a relatively cheap and easy alternative. By increasing the share of ethanol in the fuels available at the pump (such as E20, E85, etc.), you can achieve significant GHG emission reductions immediately, without having to wait for people to embrace electric cars!
This is the sort of simple yet effective measures which seem to be overlooked at this stage. The communication on the decarbonisation of transport, expected in Q3 of this year, cannot ignore ethanol’s potential if it is to really mean something. Electrification will only get you so far; ethanol can help us take that extra step and tackle emissions in the remaining 90-something percent of liquid fuels on the market.
And that’s if we only look at CO₂ emissions. Sugarcane ethanol fits well in the circular economy agenda – residues from the production of sugarcane are also used to produce electricity.
Our level of ambition requires that we use the potential of all energy sources which are ready to contribute. I already said what I think about the RED review, I will elaborate more on the other initiatives as soon as there is more clarity on where the Commission is heading. In addition, I’m very curious to see what will come out from the consultation on bioenergy which was launched last week and to which UNICA is planning to respond.
One thing is certain: there won’t be a silver bullet for reducing emissions from transport, only a pragmatic approach will succeed. If the Commission is serious about learning from past mistakes in 2016, it should start making the right choices now.
The moment has come for the EU to review one of the main pieces of legislation that influenced the EU biofuels and transport policies in the last few years: the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). A public consultation was launched in November 2015 along with an Inception Impact Assessment, which highlighted the options that the Commission is considering for the review.
The legislation should be adapted to the new EU 27% target for renewables set up by the 2030 Climate and Energy strategy. No national targets were agreed. This means that the European Union as a whole has committed to increase the share of renewables in the energy consumption by 27% compared to 1990 levels, but that Member States will have to negotiate to split the cake.
27% is not such an ambitious target, but the most worrying element in my perspective is the lack of a transport target in the options considered by the Commission for the review. It seems therefore that as of 2020, there will no longer be what I consider the best way to promote renewables in transport. Overall, I am not sure we can draw any conclusions on a legislation which implementation was paralyzed for almost 4 years because of the highly polarized ILUC debate.
In any case, I submitted this morning, on behalf of UNICA, the response to the consultation and my three key messages are:
Liquid fuels will still dominate the market and they need to be decarbonized - By 2030, the share of liquid fuels in the European Union is still expected to account for 93% of all energy in transport. This means that the Commission needs to promote the use of cleaner liquid fuels if it wants to decarbonize transport – electricity alone cannot make it by 2030. Technologies to achieve this goal, such as sustainable biofuels, already exist and should be promoted along electrification.
Sustainable biofuels should be promoted - Mandatory targets, or obligation on fuels suppliers, remain the best way to incentivize RES in transport. In fact, liquid fuels fully depend on traditional fuels suppliers to distribute their products. The market power of these operators is too large for biofuels to compete. A mandatory target, or an obligation on fuels suppliers, is the only way to force them to place clean liquid fuels on the market. In addition, to promote the competitiveness of sustainable biofuels, they should be taxed in a fair way, that is on the basis of their energy content instead of energy volume.
Higher bioethanol blends will have a positive environmental and economic impact - Ethanol high blends, such as E20, E85 and ED 95 for heavy transportation, should be promoted, as alternative fuels. This technology, developed by European companies, already exists and has positive track record in Brazil. Sustainable ethanol high blends reduce emissions by 90%, they are scalable, they need minimal change in infrastructure and they are less costly than other solutions. In addition, they reduce local pollutants compared to diesel.
I hope these points are duly taken into consideration in the evaluation of the consultation responses and further on in the review process. I will certainly continue repeating that we need to be realistic about what the future may look like and give space to the more sustainable resources, without harming the overall competitiveness objective.