The European Commission has issued guidance on how biofuel suppliers can prove their fuel meets sustainability criteria laid down in the Renewable Energy Directive.1
Under the directive, biofuels must lead to greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared with fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 (ENDS Report 397, pp 48-50). Biofuel crops cannot be grown on wetland, peatland or continuously forested areas. The directive requires 10% of transport fuel to be biofuel by 2020.
Controversially, biofuel installations in operation before January 2008 do not have to meet the greenhouse gas criteria until April 2013, allowing them time to improve their processes.
The guidance says biofuel firms can supply their relevant national authority with data showing they meet the criteria or they can have their fuel certified by accreditation schemes. These schemes will have to apply to the commission for approval. This process is similar to that used in the UK. The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) approves sustainability schemes so fuel can be used to meet government biofuel targets.
Last year the RFA benchmarked schemes against the directive’s criteria.2 It said all would need to be strengthened to be approved by the commission, especially in terms of preventing cultivation on peatland.
The commission’s guidance does not cover the issue of indirect land use change (ILUC). This occurs when crops grown for biofuels displace existing agricultural production and lead to deforestation or ploughing of grasslands. The commission aims to announce how it will account for ILUC by the end of the year (ENDS Report 415, pp 46-47).