The European Commission’s proposed binding obligations for advanced biofuels in the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) cannot be met because of a lack of private investment in the sector. The commission suggests that investors will spend €900mn/yr on advanced biofuels from 2021, but a survey of investor confidence by the consulting division of global energy and commodity price reporting agency Argus reveals that none of the 26 private-sector stakeholders that responded has committed any funds to developing advanced renewable fuels. German biofuel industry association VDB commissioned the independent survey from Argus to understand whether the biofuels industry expects RED II to provide sufficient incentive to spur investment in advanced biofuels and what effect the directive’s reduction in support for conventional biofuels will have on investor confidence.
More than half of the respondents to the survey say they will not invest in renewable fuels in the future if the commission’s plans are transposed into law. The European Parliament and the European Council will discuss and vote on the commission’s proposal in the coming months. “Even with binding targets for renewable fuels, respondents indicated that they would be hesitant to invest because of the issues surrounding legislative support and uncertainty around technology,” the report’s author, Argus consulting manager Tom Searle, said. “81pc of the respondents indicated that the reduction in support for conventional biofuels would reduce investor confidence in advanced renewable fuels.”
Considerable changes to the commission’s RED II proposal would have to be made to incentivize sufficient investment to meet the advanced biofuel targets, according to 69pc of survey respondents. “For investors, conventional and advanced biofuels form a tandem — one does not exist without the other,” VDB managing director Elmar Baumann said. “Therefore we need EU-wide binding targets for conventional biofuels until 2030, otherwise investment in advanced biofuels and other renewables in transport will fail to appear.” Conventional biofuels are the foundation on which advanced biodiesel and bioethanol are based, Baumann said. “Parliament and the council must modify the commission’s flawed proposal and maintain the targets for conventional biofuels,” he said. “Destroying the vast investments in conventional biofuels made in the EU will not attract money for advanced renewable fuels.”
Conventional biofuels are the only renewable energy source available in sufficient quantities at the moment. “The EU must use all available alternatives to fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector and fulfil its obligations under the Paris climate agreement. Finishing conventional biofuels would significantly reduce the EU’s credibility and reliability in the field of climate, industry and agricultural policy,” Baumann said. “We encourage parliament and the council to live up to their responsibility and agree to the necessary framework that fosters advanced biofuels while keeping the basis of conventional biofuels in the market.”
The European legislative framework for biofuels has changed several times in the past 10 years. The target for energy consumption from renewables in the transport sector was set at 10pc in 2009 — of which biofuels made up a large amount. The EU has capped the share of conventional biofuels at 7pc since 2014. Survey respondents called for a long-term legal framework lasting 15-20 years to be introduced to regain investors’ trust. And the share of conventional biofuels used to meet renewable energy targets should be increased, or at least not reduced, survey participants said.
The commission’s proposal sets a binding 1.5pc target for advanced renewable fuels in 2021, which rises to 6.8pc in 2030. The commission also wants to end the EU-wide support for conventional biodiesel and bioethanol in 2021. “This would destroy a whole industry that developed because of the political support of the first Renewable Energy Directive”, Baumann said.
Argus interviewed 26 market participants about their attitudes towards engagement in advanced renewable fuels and their expectations for investor confidence following the reduction in support for conventional biofuels. Survey respondents came from a diverse background, ranging from the chemical industry to traders and brokers. Argus presented the views of the respondents in a report, which is freely available on VDB’s website.
Briefing Paper: European biofuels industry survey regarding the RED II proposal