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January 4, 2024

European Court of Auditors flags biofuel ‘sustainability concerns’

Road transport Europe
The revised directive requires EU member states to oblige fuel suppliers to ensure the share of renewable energy in all transport sectors is at least 14% by 2030 (Photo: Schwoaze/Pixabay)

The EU biofuel sector ‘lacks long-term perspective’, says a report by the European Court of Auditors

The revised EU Renewable Energy Directive, agreed in 2023, increases the target for the share of advanced biofuels used in transport from 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent by 2030. Yet, the EU has failed to implement a long-term policy to ensure this target is met sustainably, says a report published in December by the European Court of Auditors.

Under RED II, advanced biofuels include agricultural and forestry residues, non-food crops or industrial waste, and residue streams. The report says measures should be taken to ensure the biofuels sector does not compete for raw materials with other sectors, including the food industry, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and bioplastics.

It also recommends a “long-term strategic approach” to ensure biomass comes from sustainable sources and that all member states have biomass supply chain security. 

Overall, RED II requires member states to oblige fuel suppliers to ensure the share of renewable energy in the road and rail transport sector is at least 10 per cent by 2020, and 14 per cent in all transport sectors by 2030.

Seven EU states reached the 10 per cent by 2020 target using biofuels and biogas, while 15 states did not reach the target, the report says.

The EU has “no indication of policy direction after 2030” for biofuels, it adds, insisting a post-2030 framework is necessary to ensure supply chains are established sustainably. 

The report also raises concerns about biofuel imports being open to fraudulent activity. Given the growing demand for biofuels, used cooking oil can fetch a higher price than the virgin oils needed by the food industry. The report suggests this price differential means some oils are being deliberately mislabelled.

The authors say the European Commission should take steps to ensure the country of origin of a feedstock is clear in the EU biofuels database and improve transparency around why a crop was grown.

The report is available to read here.

A service from the Financial Times