As biofuels gain market share and international trading of biomass, raw materials and biofuels expands, the need to ensure socio-economic sustainability along the whole supply chain becomes more pressing. This includes aspects such as land use, agricultural practices, competition with food, energy efficiency and GHG emissions, life cycle analysis (LCA), etc.
Sustainability of a given biofuel needs to be guaranteed in a transparent way. This is only possible if appropriate policy measures influencing and steering the overall supply chain are adopted. A strategy to achieve sustainability includes the need for certification systems and systems for verifying the origin of sustainable biofuels.
EC certification of sustainable biofuels
On 10 June 2010, the EC announced its scheme for certifying sustainable biofuels, part of a set of guidelines explaining how the Renewable Energy Directive, coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented.
- Communication from the Commission on the practical implementation of the EU biofuels and bioliquids sustainability scheme and on counting rules for biofuels
- Communication from the Commission on voluntary schemes and default values in the EU biofuels and bioliquids sustainability scheme
- COMMISSION DECISION of 10 June 2010 on guidelines for the calculation of land carbon stocks for the purpose of Annex V to Directive 2009/28/EC
After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised in July 2011:
ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels.
Register of Biofuels Origination (RBO) Consortium
The aim of the Register of Biofuels Origination (RBO) Consortium is to provide a 'simple and solid' international system to act as a reference tool for EU Member States authorities and EC Commission to verify the genuine origin of biofuels substances to be considered as advanced biofuels and claimed for extra incentives and/or for double counting, without interfering with the national definitions and listings of these products (different definitions and lists are set in each EU Member State).
RBO suggets that an imbalance between incentives and verification tools increases the probability of incorrect trading practices. This is facilitated by two current realities: firstly, final biofuel products often have the same chemical composition, regardless of whether they originate from waste, traditional crops or other sources; secondly, the absence of a common European scheme for registering physical biofuels under a single system generates the possibility for semi-fraudulent untrustworthy multiple claims of the same physical biofuels substances under two or more national schemes. [Source: RBO Consortium Launch Meeting communication, January 2013].
The NABISY - Sustainable biomass system in Germany
The German NABISY sustainable biomass system illustrates how a "proof of sustainability" database can be implemented to 'track' trade in (and movements of) sustainable biomass/biofuels produced by EU Member States as well as biofuels imported through EU ports and subsequently traded within the EU.
In Germany, pursuant to the provisions laid down in the Biomass-electricity sustainability ordinance (BioST-NachV) and the Biofuel sustainability ordinance (Biokraft-NachV), in the field of biofuels proofs of sustainability or partial proofs of sustainability must be submitted to the customs office in order to be counted against the biofuel quota. The same applies to the claiming of tax relief according to the Energy Tax Act (Energiesteuergesetz (EnergieStG). In the field of bioelectricity, operators of an installation are only entitled to claim remuneration pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG)) from the network operator, if they submit proofs of sustainability or partial proofs of sustainability.
NABISY facilitates the application of "mass balancing" principles. This ensures that the quantity of sustainable biomass extracted from a mixture [of biomass from various sources] does not exceed the amount of sustainable biomass that has previously been added to the mixture. The type, quantity and other important attributes of sustainable biomass are regulary documented in the mass balance system.
For a more detailed explanation please refer to: Information Leaflet: Sustainable Biomass Production
Trace your Claim (TYC) Database
The Trace your Claim database was developed to ensure that biomass, waste and residue based material which complies with the specific requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive is eligible for ‘double counting’. The database covers the entire supply chain from the point of waste or residue origination via further processing and conversion towards trade and final use by quota obligated parties. Interfaces will be provided to other public databases as well as databases operated by national authorities (e.g. Nabisy) and up- and download functions in order to ease data handling.
The Trace your Claim database can guarantee the origin, product code and the exact quantities of ‘double counting’ material marketed between any of the registered user such as collectors, biodiesel plants and traders. For this purpose users can upload important documents such as waste transfer notes, delivery notes and any other document required for proving compliance with relevant national ordinances. Especially users which from January 1, 2013 will have to comply with the very strict new German legislation (BimschV) will be enabled to document identity preservation [Source:Trace your Claim website].
Further information on certification schemes for sustainable biofuels
UFOP Video on biofuels sustainability and certification in Germany
There is a strong need to improve the database and information required to quantitatively measure sustainability. Existing LCA and other published studies are based on assumptions and projections for different technologies and there are quantitative and qualitative differences in the basic input data that have been used for different studies. Hence, the end results depend on the set of input data and assumptions and often require future validation.
The generation and validation of sets of data to be used for such studies have to be addressed as a part of R&D programmes to be established.
Global-Bio-Pact, co-funded under FP7, aims to develop and harmonize global sustainability certification systems for biomass production, conversion systems and trade in order to prevent negative socio-economic impacts.
International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC)
ISCC System System has been aproved by the German Authority BLE as the first Certification System for sustainable Biomass and Biofuels according to the German Biokraftstoff-Nachhaltigkeitsverordnung (Biokraft-NachV).
ISCC is an international certification system for Biomass and Biofuels (fuels and electricity) that describes the rules and procedures for certification. ISCC does not issue certficiates directly. This is done through Certifying Bodies (CBs).
As at August 2010, 35 certificates had been issued, and the audited facilities provided a processing capacity of around 6.3 million tonnes.
REDcert - biofuels certification in Germany
REDcert was founded on 26 February 2010 by leading associations and organizations in the German agricultural and biofuel sector and approved as a certification system on 02 June 2010, by the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung – BLE) to fulfil the requirements of the German Biomass Sustainability Ordinances (BioSt-NachV and Biokraft-NachV). The certification system can be applied to all of the steps involved in the process starting with production and collection of input materials through to processing in oil mills and the production of biofuel and liquid biofuel. [Source: REDcert].
biofuel sustainability ordinance - a model for certification systems
(Source: FNR Press Release, February 2008)
To meet growing public and policy demands for sustainable production of biofuels and biomass, the German Federal Government passed a (draft) biofuel sustainability ordinance. Under this ordinance, biofuel producers will in future enjoy fiscal and administrative support only if certain sustainability criteria are adhered to.
In 2007, the Cologne-based consultancy méo presented the results of a project funded by BMELV (the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection). The proposal focuses on certificates which guarantee that sustainability standards are kept in the production of biofuels and the relevant raw materials and specific GHG emissions occurring along the value chain can be calculated.
In addition to the EU, some important suppliers of raw materials were included in a two-year field test of the system, namely Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The project developers stressed that for certification to work effectively, sustainability requirements need to cover all other industries using agricultural resources, not just biofuels. Otherwise, there is a risk that the issues will merely be moved to another sector. For example, biofuels from plant oil may be made sustainable, but food or chemical production could be diverted to environmentally sensitive areas instead.
Biofuels certification in Poland
Quality Assurance Poland has created a dedicated website on biofuels certification at www.certyfikacja-biopaliw.pl
In Switzerland, a labelling system for Sustainable Biofuels (311 kb PDF) has been developed by ENERS Energy Concept in collaboration with Bioenergy and Energy Planning Research Group (BPE) - EPFL, Alcosuisse and Fair Energy. The label will denote that a biofuel has met specified minmum standards relating to:
- Technical criteria (technical quality of biofuels, EN 14214-15376)
- Ecological criteria (greenhouse gas emissions, water, energy, global impact...)
- Social criteria (competition with food, local communities, working conditions...)
The system is based on a three-stage process:
- Pre-evaluation of GHG and global ecological balance
- Global evaluation of technical, environmental, and social compliance
- Control and Verification
- Monitoring (after the label is granted)
An online evaluation tool for "famestar" and "ethastar" is due to be launched in Autumn 2009.