EU reaches three-quarters of its 2020 biofuels target

Biofuels from the industrial food waste is the main driver, according to Eurostat figures

EU countries have reached three-quarters of their 2020 target for the use of renewable energy in transport, but there are major differences between member states in the level of uptake, Eurostat has reported.

According to data issued by the EU’s statistical office, in 2017 the share of renewables used in transport – liquid biofuels, hydrogen and biomethane – was 7.6% on average across the EU, against a 10% goal set by 2020.

Sweden and Finland far exceeded the target, however, reaching 38.6% and 18.8% respectively and reporting the fastest growth between 2016 and 2017.

This result is mostly due to the use of biodiesels and biogasoline from the "biomass fraction of industrial waste not fit for use in the food or feed chain" and from cereals and other crops primarily produced for energy purposes on agricultural land, Eurostat told ENDS.

Carlos Calvo Ambel, an analyst for green group Transport & Environment, specified that in the case of Sweden, "about half of the share is double-counting of advanced biofuels, and a considerable chunk of this is a co-product of palm oil called PFAD, which the Swedish government has removed from the list of advanced feedstocks as from 2019".

At the other end of the spectrum, the share of biofuels in Estonian vehicle fuel was 0.4%, followed by a 1.2% in Croatia and 1.8% in Greece. Most countries were in a range between 5% and 8%, says Eurostat, with Austria and France approaching the 10% mark (9.7% and 9.1% respectively).

In 2007, before the 2020 target was adopted, biofuels represented 3.1% of transport fuels used across the EU. The revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) approved in December set a new target for 2030 of 14%, with stronger sustainability criteria.

Earlier this month, the European Commission tabled related legislation that would introduce restrictions on the use of food crops such as palm oil. But environmental groups have warned of loopholes in new rules that might still pose a risk for forests, animal habitats and the environment.

Calvo Ambel commented on the new data: "Two-thirds of all this renewable energy in transport is food-based biofuels. The commission itself recognised in the RED II proposal that the future is advanced biofuels, not food-based fuels."

Within the EU framework, countries are free to determine how to reach their targets. In its national action plan on renewable energy, Sweden set the objective of "a vehicle fleet that is independent of fossil fuels" by 2030.

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