European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP) - an Overview
The European Union is strongly dependent on fossil fuels for its transport needs and is a net importer of crude oil. At the same time, concerns are increasing about climate change and the potential economic and political impact of peak oil production. To address these issues, meet 2020 targets for renewable energy sources in transport, radically cut GHG emissions and reduce dependency on fossil fuels the EU has adopted measures to encourage the production and use of sustainable biofuels.
However, following concerns about Indirect Land Use Change and the impacts of using "food crops" for biofuel production, targets for renewable transport fuels were not included in the EC communication of 23 January 2014: A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 This is summarised in an accompanying EC press release
See the legislation section of this website for further detail.
Background to EU policy and strategy on biofuels, the sustainable bioeconomy, and alternative transport fuels
In April 2014, the EC introduced new guidelines on state aid for renewable energy, including biofuels.
Press release summarising main points: Commission adopts new rules on public support for environmental protection and energy
In summary, the new guidelines curtail state aid to 'food-based' biofuels from 2014, but allow some limited operating support for 'food-based' biofuels up to 2020 (the relevant paragraphs are included in full on the EBTP biofuels legislation page). Support is allowed for 'sustainable biofuels' (as defined by the Renewable Energy Directive, 2009/28, Article 17, Sustainability criteria for biofuels and bioliquids), where supply or blending obligations are not alone deemed sufficient to facilitiate market development.
A final decision on proposed revisions to the Fuel Quality Directive and Renewable Energy Directive continues to be delayed. 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).
The continued uncertainty in European biofuels policy, is detering 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 2 May 3013 the EC published a Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation SWD(2013) 157 final / SWD(2013) 158 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.
An Expert study on Financial instruments for the SET-Plan is now available on the JRC SETIS website. The Horizon 2020 Draft Work Programme for 2014-2015 was published in December 2013, including a draft programme for Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy.
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. This 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.
This follows the publication in October 2012 of 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.
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.
Development of sustainable advanced biofuels is part of the Strategy for a Sustainable European Bioeconomy proposed by the European Commission in February 2012 to shift the European economy towards greater and more sustainable use of renewable resources and processes (for food, feed, energy and industry).
The plan focuses on three key aspects: developing new technologies and processes for the bioeconomy; developing markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors; and pushing policymakers and stakeholders to work more closely together.
The EU bioeconomy currently has a turnover of nearly €2 trillion (2012) and employs more than 22 million people, 9% of total employment in the EU. It includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical,biotechnological and energy industries. Each Euro invested in EU-funded bioeconomy research and innovation is estimated to trigger €10 of value added in bioeconomy sectors by 2025.
Following the European Commission’s strategy and action plan for a sustainable European Bioeconomy, the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation has organsied a series of events taking place in 2012 and 2013 in both in Brussels and in some of the Member States :
View presentations from 2013 Stakeholders Conference - Bioeconomy in the EU: Achievements and Directions for the Future
To accelerate the development of the bioeconomy a proposal for a Biobased PPP has been developed as outlined in the draft Vision Report Biobased for Growth: a public-private partnership on biobased industries. On 10 September 2012 a Stakeholder Conference on the Biobased PPP was held in Brussels.
Previous EC Policies on Climate Change and Security of Energy Supply
A number of previous EU policies on climate change and security of energy supply support the development of sustainable biofuels, as a signifcant element in the shift towards greater use of renewable energy resources.
In February 2009, the European Parliament resolution “2050: The future begins today – Recommendations for the EU's future integrated policy on climate change” (2008/2105(INI)) set out a range of measures that should be taken in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020 and a reduction of at least 80% by 2050.
Among other measures, the resolution advocates that EU Member States should invest in research on sustainable advanced biofuels.
The EC Transparency Platform page 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.
The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) (January 2007) aimed to match the most appropriate set of policy instruments to the needs of different technologies at different stages of the development and deployment cycle. It addresses the entire innovation process from basic research to market uptake for bioenergy, including biofuels.
In October 2009, the EC published a proposal on Investing in the Development of Low Carbon Technologies (SET PLan), calling for an additional €50bn investment in low carbon technologies, including €9bn for bioenenergy (advanced biofuels and efficient CHP).
The proposal states that the EU "has to bring to commercial maturity the most promising technologies, in order to permit large-scale, sustainable production of advanced biofuels and highly efficient combined heat and power from biomass.
The SET-Plan 2011 Conference was held on 28-29 November 2011 in Warsaw, Poland as a part of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. One of the key outcomes of the conference was a political resolution – the Warsaw Declaration - on a proper reflection of the SET-Plan technologies in the next financial framework (2014-2020). This was a 'commitment' to bring new high performance energy tachnologies to market, such as advanced bioenergy at the industrial scale.
In May 2013, the EC published a Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation SWD(2013) 157 final / SWD(2013) 158 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.
The need for investment in advanced biofuels and bioenergy demonstration and deployment
Different bio-energy pathways are at various stages of maturity. For many, the most pressing need is to demonstrate the technology at the appropriate scale – pilot plants, pre-commercial demonstration or full industrial scale. Up to 30 such plants will be needed across Europe to take full account of differing geographical and climate conditions and logistical constraints. A longer term research programme will support the development of a sustainable bio-energy industry beyond 2020."
The proposal on development of low-carbon energy technologies (2009) indicates that the total public and private investment needed in Europe [for sustainable bioenergy demonstration] over the next 10 years is estimated as €9 bn. By 2020, the contribution to the EU energy mix from cost-competitive bio-energy used in accordance with the sustainability criteria of the new RES directive could be at least 14%. More than 200000 local jobs could be created (see European Industrial Bioenergy Initiative below).
The SET Plan builds upon the major proposals outlined in the Vision Report (April 2006) of The Biofuels Research Advisory Council (BIOFRAC) (April 2006), which presented a long-term view on how to overcome the technical and non-technical barriers for biofuel deployment in the European Union and worldwide.
In 2012, it is estimated that biofuels consumed in the EU 27, account for around 4.5 % of road transport fuels.
Production needs to increase rapidly if Member States are to achieve the target of 5.75% by 2010, as set in the European Biofuels Directive (2003). Subsequent concerns about the impact of some first generation biofuels caused several Member States to reduce these targets pending further research on sustainability issues and the wider availability of advanced biofuels.
To help address these concerns and enable the EU27 to increase their market share of biofuels to 10% by 2020 (including a significant proportion of advanced biofuels) the European Biofuels Technolgy Platform (EBTP) aims to contribute to the development of cost-competitive world-class biofuels value chains and the creation of a healthy biofuels industry, and to accelerate the sustainable deployment of biofuels in the European Union, through a process of guidance, prioritisation and promotion of research, technology development and demonstration.
Established in 2006, the EBTP brings together the knowledge and expertise of stakeholders from industry, biomass resources providers, research & technology development organisations and NGOs in a public private partnership.
It is managed by a Steering Committee and supported by a Secretariat, the European Commission being an active observer. Stakeholders can register and share access to key contacts, internal and external reports, events, opinions and expertise on biofuels RD&D. The main activities are carried out through four principle working groups covering biomass resources, conversion, end use, policy & sustainability, and an ad hoc working group covering the EIBI.
The initial focus of the EBTP during 2007 was to produce a Strategic Research Agenda and Strategy Deployment Document SRA/SDD identifying key RD&D working lines for the next decades, as necessary to achieve the Vision 2030. The SRA/SDD, which was launched at the First Stakeholder Plenary Meeting in Brussels on 31st January 2008, also aimed to provide a reliable source of information and opinion on the development of biofuels for transport in the EU.
In October 2012 the EC published a proposal to minimisse the climate impact of biofuels with suggested changes to the Renewable Energy Directive (COM (2008) 19) and the updated Fuel Quality Directive - adopted by Council and the European Parliament. These set the framework conditions and resulting challenges to be overcome by economic actors of current and future biofuel value chains. In light of this legislation and ongoing consultations on the availability and sustainability of feedstocks, as well as the acceleration of novel feedstocks (e.g. algae), advanced conversion technologies, and emerging markets (e.g. aviation, shipping), an Update to the EBTP SRA was published in summer 2010
The EIBI is one of the industrial initiatives launched under the SET Plan. It will support demonstration or reference plants for innovative bioenergy value chains which are not yet commercially available (thus excluding current biofuels, heat & power, biogas) and which could be deployed at large scale. Working closely with the European Commission, the EBTP drafted proposals for a European Industrial BioEnergy Initiative (EIBI), encompassing a range of advanced technologies for example, gasification (syngas), Fischer-Tropsch, methanol/DME, cellulosic ethanol, pyrolysis oils, algal oils, and catalysis of plant sugars and synthetic biology. The EIBI also covers advanced technology for power generation from biomass and takes into account the availability of sustainable feedstocks across all value chains.
The EIBI was launched in November 2010. An initial call for Expressions of Interest for the EIBI was launched on 15 July 2011 and the deadline was extended to 14 October 2011 (from 30 September). In total 52 Expressions of Interested were received, 32 in the thermochemical pathways and 20 in the biochemical pathways.
In December 2013 an Expert study on Financial instruments for the SET-Plan was published and is available on the JRC SETIS website.
As part of Knowledge Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) initiatives, the EBTP works closely with related European Technology Patforms (ETPs) involved in Sustainable Chemistry, Plant Biotechnology, Agriculture and Transport to identify gaps and synergies in biorefinery R&DD. Specifically, the EBTP particpates in the BeCoTeps and STAR-Colibri projects, as well as liaising with ERA-NET Bioenergy and ESFRI EWG. It also contributes extensively to consultations on the availability and certification of sustainable bioenergy feedstocks, including lignocellulosic materials and novel biomass resources, such as algae.
To produce sustainable feedstocks for biofuels, availability-cost curves for different sources of biomass and geographical locations are required, as well as new high-yield and low-input agricultural and forest systems with optimised breeding and efficient harvesting, collection and storage systems.
To convert a diverse range of feedstocks into sustainable biofuels requires
maximisation of energy and carbon efficiency of current and new processes,
optimisation of the valorisation of the feedstocks (integrated biorefining)
and development and demonstration of reliability and feedstock flexibility,
at pilot and industrial scale.
To facilitate the wider use of biofuels in road transport, biofuels and blends need to become increasingly compatible with existing logistics as well as current and future power trains. Vehicle modifications for neat biofuels and high blends are required, based on engine-fleet test data and sound quality standards, and an in-depth understanding of the relationship between biofuels quality and engine performance.
Ensuring overall system sustainability now and in the future, will require specific efforts to develop and improve relevant methodology and indicators to assess economic, environmental and social sustainability issues. In turn, this depends on the collection of reliable data for the assessment of existing and new production chains.
On the economic and political side, non-technological
factors will also play a decisive role, with a need for a coherent, long
term and harmonised market and political framework to secure investment in
new technology, This can be achieved by joint public/private financing for
R&D&D of newpathways, applicable quality standards based on sound
science, and a global certification system to ensure sustainability and increased
social awareness and acceptance.
The winning options (combining land use, feedstock, conversion and end products) will be those best addressing strategic and sustainability targets, including a high level of GHG reduction with sound management of key environmental issues (biodiversity, water use, local emissions), security and diversification of energy supply for road transport, economic competitiveness and social acceptance.
Further background information on the aims, objectives, origins and terms of reference of the Biofuels TP are provided in the following PDF files.
To turn promising technology into commercial reality requires financial support and a positive regulatory framework that will enable markets for advanced biofuels to develop rapidly and contribute to the 2020 targets. The EBTP continues to work closely with the European Commission, and has drafted a policy toolkit outlining the measures that are needed to promote the large-scale deployment of advanced sustainable biofuels.
Current EU measures to encourage the use of biofuels (regular updates are included on the legislation page)
The Biofuels Directive (2003/30/EC)
The Biomass Action Plan (COM(2005) 628)
A Strategy for Biofuels >> (COM(2006) 34) - 120 KB PDF
A high-level Advisory Council (The Biofuels Research Advisory Council - BIOFRAC) was established by the European Commission to establish the need for and prepare the groundwork for the Technology Platform. BIOFRAC consists of members who represent a balance of the major European biofuels stakeholders, including the agricultural and forestry sectors, food industry, biofuels industry, oil companies and fuel distributors, car manufacturers and research institutes. This met several times in 2005.
The initial mission of BIOFRAC was to develop a Vision Report that addressed all the issues that are relevant to ensure a breakthrough in biofuels technology and increase their deployment in the EU, with an emphasis on research, development and demonstration. The report is intended as a reference document for all stakeholders including policy-makers and will also support the development and implementation of the 7th Framework Programme for research (FP7), as well as providing guidence for the development of the BiofuelsTP Strategic Research Agenda.
Download vision report >> 1.42 MB
The Final Vision Report outlines the current situation of biofuels and presents a long-term view on how to overcome the technical and non-technical barriers for biofuel deployment in the European Union and worldwide. In early 2006 it was made open to public consultation to April 2006.