Biofuels Policy and Legislation

A number of directives cover biofuels use in the EU including the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, the Fuel Quality Directive and the Biofuels Directive 2003. Relevant EC communications, stakeholder statements and links to further information on biofuels legislation are presented below in the following sections:

EC legislation relating to biofuels

Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC

Renewable Energy Directive

  • Approval by European Parliament on 17 Dec 2008
  • By 2020, 20 % share of RES in final energy consumption, 20 % increase in energy efficiency
  • 10 % target for RES in transport in each Member State
  • National Renewable Energy Action Plans required by June 2010
  • Burden sharing for RES targets except transport
  • Harmonised approach with Fuel Quality Directive
  • No biofuel feedstock from carbon rich or biodiverse land
  • EC has to report on compliance with environmental and social sustainability criteria of major biofuel exporting countries
  • Minimum GHG reduction for biofuels 35% and 50% from 2017 on; 60% for new installations from 2017 on; for plants operating in Jan 2008 GHG requirement will start in Apr 2013 (amended in Directive (EU) 2015/1513)
  • Bonus of 29 g CO2/MJ for biofuels from degraded/contaminated land
  • EC proposal for incorporating indirect land use changes by the end of 2010; special clauses for plants built before 2013 (see Directive (EU) 2015/1513)
  • Biofuels from waste, residues, non food cellulosic material, and lignocellulosic material will count twice for RES transport target
  • Mass balance approach for certification of sustainability
  • EC will negotiate bilateral and multilateral agreements
  • Establishment of a committee for sustainability of biofuels

Amendment to the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC)

Directive 2009/30/EC amending Directive 98/70/EC on environmental standards for fuel (Fuel Quality Directive) aims at:

  • further tightening environmental quality standards for a number of fuel parameters,
  • enabling more widespread use of ethanol in petrol and
  • introducing a mechanism for reporting and reduction of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from fuel
  • Reduction in life cycle GHG emissions from energy supplied. Binding target of 6% as first step while leaving open the possibility for increasing the future level of ambition to 10%.
  • To that effect, in a 2012 review, the Commission will need to assess a further increase of the ambition level of 2% from other technological advances, such as the supply of electricity for use in transport. A further 2% is envisaged to be achieved by the use of CDM credits for flaring reductions not linked to EU oil consumption.
  • Incorporation of sustainability criteria for biofuels used to meet GHG reduction requirement. Creation of specific Committee jointly with the RED to coordinate the energy and environment aspects in future development of biofuel sustainability criteria.
  • Reduction of sulphur content of inland waterway fuel in one step to 10ppm by 1 January 2011.
  • Phasing in of 10% Ethanol (E10) petrol: To avoid potential damage to old cars, continued marketing of petrol containing maximum 5% ethanol guaranteed until 2013, with the possibility of an extension to that date if needed.
  • Derogations for petrol vapour pressure for cold summer conditions and blending in of ethanol are subject to Commission approval following an assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impacts, in particular on air quality.
  • Increase of allowed biodiesel content in diesel to 7% (B7) by volume, with an option for more than 7% with consumer info.

Amendment of the Fuel Quality Directive and Renewable Energy Directive

On 9 September 2015, Directive (EU) 2015/1513, the "iLUC Directive", was published in the Official Journal of the European Community. This directive limits the way Member States can meet the target of 10% for renewables in transport fuels by 2020, bringing to an end many months of debate. There will be a cap of 7% on the contribution of biofuels produced from 'food' crops, and a greater emphasis on the production of advanced biofuels from waste feedstocks. Member States must then include the law in national legislation by 2017, and show how they are going to meet sub-targets for advanced biofuels.

Key elements of the amendment

The contribution of biofuels produced from 'food' crops (to the 10 % renewables in transport target) is capped at 7%

The other 3% will come from a variety of multiple counted alternatives:

  • Biofuels from Used Cooking Oil and Animal Fats (double counted)
  • Renewable electricity in rail (counted 2.5 times)
  • Renewable electricity in electric vehicles (counted 5 times)
  • Advanced biofuels (double counted)
  • Bench mark for the share of advanced biofuels in the transport sector of 0.5%

The agreement also includes the reporting and publishing of data on ILUC-related emissions on both national and European level.

Member States have to transpose the directive into national legislation by mid-2017, and establish the level of their national indicative sub-targets for advanced biofuels.

See Chronicle of the policy debate on the amendment of RED / FQD (Directive (EU) 2015/1513)

Emission performance standards for new passenger cars

Regulation (EC) No 443/2009, amended in Regulation (EU) No 333/2014, sets emission standard targets for new passenger cars in the EU:

  • 130 g/120 g CO2/km limit for new cars in 2012 (10 g by additional measures)
  • Limit of 95 g CO2/km in 2020
  • Step by step approach; bonus for eco innovations
  • % bonus for E85 cars until Dec 2015 if sustainable E85 is available at least at 30 % of all filling stations of the Member State where the car is registered.

Directive on deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure

On 29 September 2014, New EU rules were adopted to ensure the build-up of alternative refuelling points across Europe with common standards for their design and use, including a common plug for recharging electric vehicles. Member States must set and make public their targets and present their national policy frameworks by end-2016. See Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure 2014/94/EU (also known as the CPT Directive).

Based on the consultation of stakeholders and national experts, as well as the expertise reflected in the Communication from the Commission of 24 January 2013 entitled ‘Clean Power for Transport : A European alternative fuels strategy’, electricity, hydrogen, biofuels, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) were identified as currently the principal alternative fuels with a potential for long-term oil substitution, also in light of their possible simultaneous and combined use by means of, for instance, dual-fuel technology systems.

New rules on state aid for biofuels 2014-2020 (April 2014)

In April 2014, the EC introduced new guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy, including renewable energy and biofuels.

Press release summarising main points: Commission adopts new rules on public support for environmental protection and energy

Full guidelines: Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said, "The new guidelines provide a framework for designing more efficient public support measures that reflect market conditions, in a gradual and pragmatic way. Europe should meet its ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market."

In relation to biofuels, the guidelines state:

(112) In view of the overcapacity in the food-based biofue l market, the Commission will consider that investment aid in new and existing capacity for food-based biofuel is not justified. However, inve stment aid to convert food-based biofuel plants into advanced biofuel plants is allowed to cover the costs of such conversion. Other than in this particular case, investment aid to biofuels can only be granted in favour of advanced biofuels.

(113) Whilst investment aid to support food-based biofuel will cease with the entry into force of these Guidelines, operating aid to food-based biofuels can only be granted until 2020. Therefore such aid can only be granted to plants that started operation before 31 December 2013 until the plant is fully depreciated but in any event no later than 2020.

(114) In addition, the Commission will consider that the aid does not increase the level of environmental protection and can therefore not be found compatible with the internal market if the aid is granted for biofuels which are subject to a supply or blending obligation, unless a Member State can demonstrate that the aid is limited to sustainable biofuels that are too expensive to come on the market with a supply or blending obligation only.

'sustainable biofuel' means a biofuel fulfilling the sustainability criteria set out in Article 17 of Directive (EC) 2009/28 of the European Parliament and the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and any amendment thereof.

'Anti-dumping' duties

As of 27 November 2013 the EU will impose definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia. The antidumping measures consist of an additional duty of on average 24.6% for Argentina and 18.9% for Indonesia. The measures are based on a decision taken this week by the Council, following a 15-month investigation carried out by the European Commission. It revealed that Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel producers were dumping their products on the EU market. The dumped exports had a significant negative effect on the financial and operational performance of European producers.

COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 193/2009 imposing a provisional anti-dumping duty on imports of biodiesel originating in the United States of America

  • EC procedure started 13 June 2008 on initiative of
    European Biodiesel Board
  • Background: subsidies for B99 in the US
  • Anti-dumping and countervailing duties approved on 11 Mar 2009 and published 12 Mar 2009 (EC 193 and 194/2009), differentiated by producer
  • Anti dumping duty 23.6-208.2 €/t
  • Countervailing duty 211.2-237.0 €/t

Member States action plans and reporting on biofuels and bioenergy

The DG Energy "Renewable Energy" webpage includes the National Renewable Energy Action Plans for all member states as well as important reports and communications on sustainable cultivation and use of biomass, bioenergy and biofuels, as follows:

EC policies and communications

Joint input to SET Plan governance discussion from four ETPs and EUREC

On 18 March 2015 the European Commission presented to the SET Plan Steering Group the first draft of its proposals for reforming the governance of the SET Plan. In meetings with European Technology Platforms (ETPs) in renewable energy in the weeks that followed, EUREC offered to draft a joint reaction to the EC’s proposals, and they accepted the proposal.

The emerging joint EUREC-ETP consensus was discussed with the European Commission on 8 June in a meeting between the EC and representatives from EUREC and the ETPs. Five main messages (see below) were sent two days later, with a full-length paper being sent to the EC and national delegates to the SET Plan Steering Group on 31 August. The final paper was signed by the ETPs EU PV TP, RHC-Platform, EBTP and ETP-Smart Grids, as well as EUREC. [Souce: EUREC website October 2015].

EC Communication on Climate and Energy Policy Framework 2020-2030 (Jan 2014)

On 23 January 2014 the EC published a communication: A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 This is summarised in an accompanying EC press release.

Of particular relevance to biofuels was Q&A 12:

"The future of EU transport development should be based on alternative, sustainable fuels as an integrated part of a more holistic approach to the transport sector. The Commission has therefore not proposed new targets for the transport sector after 2020 (current targets: 10% renewable energy for the transport sector. The share of renewables in transport rose to 4.7% in 2010 from 1.2% in 2005). Based on the lessons of the existing target and on the assessment of how to minimise indirect land-use change emissions, it is clear that first generation biofuels have a limited role in decarbonising the transport sector. A range of alternative renewable fuels and a mix of targeted policy measures building on the Transport White Paper are thus needed to address the challenges of the transport sector in a 2030 perspective and beyond."

EC communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation (May 2013)

On 2 May 2013 the EC published a Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation COM(2013) 253 final. The plan - updating the existing SET-Plan - aims to bridge the gap between research and market deployment and provide a boost for a wider range of energy technologies, including the cutting of energy consumption, and innovation in energy storage, radioactive waste management and alternative fuels, as well as renewable cooling and concentrated solar thermal power for industrial heating. A strengthened SET Plan steering group has been developing a roadmap for energy innovation. The new plan will be financed through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme and other sources such as the European Investment Bank and the Connecting Europe Facility. Funding would also come from the member states and the private sector.

See also: Technology Assessment SWD(2013) 158 final

and JRC Scientific and Policy Reports R & D Investment in the Technologies of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan

Other EC and European Parliament policy activity on biofuels

On 16 October 2013 the European Parliament Intergroup on 'Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development' held a workshop entitled 'The future of Biofuels as alternative fuel for the transport sector '. A summary report and presentations are now available.

On 24th January 2013 the EC published COM(2013) 17 Clean Power for Transport: A European Alternative Fuels Strategy, which encompasses biofuels as well as LNG, SNG, electricity and hydrogen. See also the Press Release Europe Launches Clean Fuel Strategy. The strategy document advocates support for sustainable advanced biofuels produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks and wastes, as well as algae and microorganisms. It recommends no further public support for first generation biofuels produced from food crops after 2020.

PDF IconEBTP comments on the RED / FQD Review - a consensus of comments made by members of EBTP Working Group 4 Policy and Sustainability as well as members of the EBTP Steering Committee.

Chronicle of the policy debate on the amendment of RED / FQD (Directive (EU) 2015/1513) 

EBTP Response to the ILUC Directive

The European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP) appreciates that the on-going debate about the biofuels legislation through the RED and FQD review is settled for now; this debate has caused many uncertainties and blocked many investment decisions for the past three years. However EBTP would like to comment on key elements of the final legislation:

  1. The non-binding and double counted advanced biofuels target of 0.5% is not ambitious enough to foster the deployment of advanced biofuels. Member States have options to go below 0.5% and experience in the EU demonstrates that indicative targets are usually not achieved. A European wide and binding sub target is the most effective way to support innovative pathways. Innovative pathways are based on technologies with a high implementation potential and high well-to-wheel energy efficiency, but also high upfront development and demonstration costs, since they are not yet widely commercially available. By securing market demand, investments can be made in deployment.
  2. The EBTP is in favour of the decision to maintain dedicated energy crops or the so-called “grassy energy crops with a low starch content” among the advanced biofuels feedstocks list. Dedicated energy crops provide best land-use efficiency, can be grown also on marginal or degraded land and are able to create additional income for farmers.

The cap of 7% on the contribution of biofuels from food crops is a political compromise that affects the healthy sustainable conventional biofuels industry in Europe. The vision for advanced biofuels industrialisation is related to the existing conventional biofuels industry where technical, operational and financial synergies exist with advanced innovative pathways. Capping all conventional biofuels without distinction is not providing the sector with reassurances that policy-makers can define objective and evidence-based biofuels policy in the future. However, the recognition of the concept of low ILUC risk conventional biofuels is a positive signal. The final ILUC directive is a first step towards a stable and consistent framework for biofuels in Europe. Howeverit is urgent to define a new biofuel policy post 2020. A coherent European approach on the development and implementation of legislation, policies, projects and programmes in the field of alternative transport fuels, contributing towards an energy-efficient, decarbonised transport sector is needed in order to address the key challenges faced by the transport sector in Europe in terms of GHG emissions and energy dependency. Sustainable biofuel technologies have a key role to play in addressing these challenges.

Process to reach the compromise agreement

In October 2012, the EC published a proposal to minimise the climate impact of biofuels, by amending the current legislation on biofuels through the Renewable Energy and the Fuel Quality Directives. In particular, the proposals suggest:

  • To increase the minimum greenhouse gas saving threshold for new installations to 60% in order to improve the efficiency of biofuel production processes as well as discouraging further investments in installations with low greenhouse gas performance.
  • To include indirect land use change (ILUC) factors in the reporting by fuel suppliers and Member States of greenhouse gas savings of biofuels and bioliquids;
  • To limit the amount of food crop-based biofuels and bioliquids that can be counted towards the EU's 10% target for renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020, to the current consumption level, 5% up to 2020, while keeping the overall renewable energy and carbon intensity reduction targets;
  • To provide market incentives for biofuels with no or low indirect land use change emissions, and in particular the 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels produced from feedstock that do not create an additional demand for land, including algae, straw, and various types of waste, as they will contribute more towards the 10% renewable energy in transport target of the Renewable Energy Directive.

pdf icon EBTP comments on the RED / FQD Review - a consensus of comments made by members of EBTP Working Group 4 Policy and Sustainability as well as members of the EBTP Steering Committee.

On 12 December 2013 the European Council failed to reach an agreement on a compromise proposal put forward by the Lithuanian Presidency, based on a 7% cap on conventional biofuels. This meant no decision was possible before the European Parliamentary elections in May 2014, and is now unlikely to be made before the end of 2014.

On 11 September 2013 a narrow majority of MEPs voted that "first generation" biofuels should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020, as opposed to the current 10% target in existing legislation, while advanced biofuels should represent at least 2.5% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The MEP vote also endorsed double-counting of biofuels produced from UCO or animal wastes and a minimum 7.5% limit of ethanol in gasoline. Finally, they decided to include an iLUC factor in the Fuel Quality Directive methodology as of 2020. Rapporteur, Ms Lepage, was two votes short of receiving a mandate to negotiate with member states, who then failed to reach a common position of their own in December 2013 (as described above).

Since December 2013, the Council's preparatory bodies continued to work further on the proposal, with a view to facilitating political agreement, which was reached in June 2014 (as outlined above).

The ongoing uncertainty in European biofuels policy from 2012-2014 deterred investment in the industry, making it harder for demonstration and flagship plants to secure the funding needed for commissioning. This potentially puts on hold the creation of 1000s of new jobs in the European Bioeconomy. The barriers to investment in advanced biofuels are highlighted in a report by Agra CEAS Consulting, published in December 2013, EU Biofuels Investment Development: Impact of an Uncertain Policy Environment.

On 9 December 2014, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council adopted without debate its first-reading position on the "draft Directive on indirect Land-Use Change", which amends the Fuel Quality Directive and Renewable Energy Directive. The European Parliament iniially adopted its first reading position on 11 September 2013. In December 2013, the Energy Council examined a presidency compromise text of this draft directive. However, there were still some outstanding issues. Therefore, the Council's preparatory bodies continued to work further on the proposal, with a view to facilitating political agreement, which was reached in June 2014.
See: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 98/70/EC relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (first reading) - Political agreement

See also: Correction to the above document (this affects a single sentence).

References and Further Reading

EBTP Position on Rappoteur Amendment to the RED/FQD Proposal

ePure Press Release

European Biodiesel Board Press Release

iLUC Prevention Study - Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development

NASA Earth Observatory Tropical Deforestation Update

Renewable ethanol: enabling innovation and sustainable development: State of the Industry 2015

Using Recent Land Use Changes to Validate Land Use Change Models

Baseline time accounting: Considering global land use dynamics when estimating the climate impact of indirect land use change caused by biofuels

Land Use Change Greenhouse Gas Emissions of European Biofuel Policies Utilizing the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) Model

A change for the worse: The campaign to re-dredge ‘Indirect Land Use Change'

Greenhouse gas impact of marginal fossil fuel use

Presentations from the 5th Stakeholder Plenary Meeting of EBTP in February 2013

pdf icon EBTP general views on the RED and FQD review
Marc Gillmann, Chair EBTP WG4 - Policy and Sustainability;
Total Supply and Marketing, Stratégie biocarburants et développement agricole

pdf icon Existing policy framework and proposal to review RED and FQD to take ILUC of biofuels into account

Øyvind Vessia, Policy Officer, Unit C1 Renewables and CCS Policy, DG ENER, European Commission

Links to EC Policies, initiatives and official information relating to biofuels

Biofuels are covered by a number of existing EU policies and initiatives on bioenergy, sustainable transport and the wider bioeconomy, for example: the SET Plan; the European Industrial Bioenergy Initiative; Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy; and the Strategy for a Sustainable European Bioeconomy.

Further links are included below:

Background Information and EU Policy »

Europa pages on Bioenergy and Biofuels »

Directives and Communications »

Older legislation »

Background information and EU Policy

Relevant EU policy documents and links include:

SET plan

Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation SWD(2013) 157 final / SWD(2013) 158 final (May 2013)

JRC support to the SET Plan

Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy

Strategy for a Sustainable European Bioeconomy

A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy

Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS)

See also MEMO/09/437 – Questions and answers

Renewable Energy Road Map

EU Strategy for Biofuels (2006)

Clean Vehicles Directive

Emission performance standards for new cars

Climate Change: 2050 - the future begins today

DG Energy pages on bioenergy and biofuels

Renewable energy



Directives and Communications

Further information on European Legislation is available through EUR-Lex the portal to European Union law. EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. The system makes it possible to consult the Official Journal of the European Union and it includes inter alia the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. It offers extensive search facilities.

EC communications and directives on biofuels and bioenergy

Archive Legislation

Some previous legislative and related documents are listed below. The entries are divided into the following sections:


COM(2007) 18 . Proposal, of  31 January 2007, for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and the introduction of a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of road transport fuels and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC, as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC - download (PDF 88Kb)

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on The development and promotion of alternative fuels for road transport in the European Union OJ C 195, 18.8.2006

COM 2003/30/EC ("Biofuels Directive") of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport Official Journal L 123, 17/05/2003 P. 0042 - 0046

COM/2001/0547 final Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on alternative fuels for road transportation and on a set of measures to promote the use of biofuels

COM(2001) 547 final: Communication of the European Commission of 07/11/2001 on an Action Plan and two Proposals for Directives to foster the use of Alternative Fuels for Transport, starting with the regulatory and fiscal promotion of biofuels

Directive 98/70/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Council Directive 93/12/EEC  OJ L 350, 28.12.1998, p. 58–68

Commission Directive 87/441/EEC of 29 July 1987 on crude-oil savings through the use of substitute fuel components in petrol  OJ L 238, 21.8.1987, p. 40–41


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of clean road transport vehicles  OJ C 229, 22.9.2006, p. 18–21

Directive 98/69/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 relating to measures to be taken against air pollution by emissions from motor vehicles and amending Council Directive 70/220/EEC,  OJ L 350, 28.12.1998, p. 1–57


Council Directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003 restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity (Text with EEA relevance) OJ L 283, 31.10.2003, p. 51–70

2003/238/EC: Commission Decision of 15 May 2002 on the aid scheme implemented by France applying a differentiated rate of excise duty to biofuels (notified under document number C(2002) 1866)  Official Journal L 094 , 10/04/2003 P. 0001 - 0042

2002/550/EC: Council Decision of 27 June 2002 authorising the United Kingdom to apply a differentiated rate of excise duty to fuels containing biodiesel in accordance with Article 8(4) of Directive 92/81/EEC  OJ L 180, 10.7.2002, p. 20–21

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2546/95 of 30 October 1995 amending Commission Regulation (EC) No 3199/93 on the mutual recognition of procedures for the complete denaturing of alcohol for the purposes of exemption from excise duty OJ L 260, 31.10.1995, p. 45–46