EU biofuels barometer :+2.9% consumption in 2012 growth rate down to half

The EurObserv’ER consortium has published its annual biofuels barometer for the 27 European Member States.

In 2012 14.4 MToe of biofuels were consumed in EU with an average incorporation rate in transport fuels of 4.7% on energy basis. The increase of consumption between 2011 and 2012 was at 2.9%, (+0.4 MToe), revealing a sensible decrease in growth compared to 2010-2011 (+5.3%).

The growth in consumption was uneven across EU, as 14 Member States (including France, Germany, Sweden and Finland) increased their consumption while 10 others actually decreased it (i.e. the UK, Poland, Hungary and Italy), mainly due to some countries reducing their mandates and to the uncertainties in the European legislation.

Biodiesel accounts for 79.1% of the total biofuel consumption on energy basis, while bioethanol accounts for 19.9% and pure vegetable oil for 1%. The report states that for the majority of countries which have statistical accountings available for 2012, almost all of the biofuels consumed were certified as sustainable.

Germany is still the main consumer of biofuels (5.7% share of biofuels in transport fuels in 2012), using mainly biodiesel but also a sensible volume of bioethanol, as the consumption of E10 fuel is increasing.  France has become EU’s top biodiesel consumer (2.29 MToe). In the UK the consumption has dropped by 15.9% between 2011 and 2012. According to the report, this drop is explained by the introduction of double-counting measures for biofuels produced from wastes such as UCO, which as allowed distributors to actually reduce their incorporation rates, thus reducing the actual demand volumes. In Spain also the mandatory blend rate was reduced to 4.1% from 6.5 in 2012.

EU Political agenda

The report also provides a synthesis of the current framework and the pending issues in the European political agenda and which will inevitably affect the future of the biofuel industry, namely the proposed amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive, which are currently under negotiation at the European Parliament.

The main issues at stake are the introduction of the so-called ILUC factor and the modulation of the 2020 target of 10% biofuels in transports, with maximum quota of 5 to 7% for 1st generation biofuels, the introduction of a minimum quota (i.e. 2.5%) for “advanced biofuels” and even a mandatory percentage of renewable electricity.

Given the current level of biofuel incorporation estimated at 4.7%, the introduction of the proposed new quota and double and quadruple counting measures for some feedstock would likely mean a stop for the industry of 1stgeneration biofuels, while theoretically opening up a market for “advanced biofuels”.

However a critical point is the exclusion of some important biomass sources from the list of eligible feedstock for advanced biofuels in the current proposal voted by the ENVI’s Committee of the EU Parliament, which according to leading advanced biofuels producers would actually create a barrier for the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels technologies in EU.

The full report: here