The European Parliament’s environmental committee voted on 14 April to endorse the capping of food-based biofuels at 7% in the penultimate phase of the EU's biofuels reform process.

The European Parliament’s environmental committee voted on 14 April to endorse the capping of food-based biofuels at 7% in the penultimate phase of the EU's biofuels reform process.

In addition, the committee decided not to take indirect land use change (ILUC) into account for the moment, rejecting it on the grounds of insufficient scientific evidence.

The final phase of the EU Directives for Renewable Energies and Fuel Quality bill will take place on 29 April, when the legislation will be put to vote during the next full session of Parliament in Strasbourg, France. According to Biomass Magazine, it is expected that the legislation will be approved.

Currently, EU member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy used for transport by 2020. If the legislation is approved at the end of April, no more than 7% of this will be able to come from first-generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) although member states can set a lower target. They will have to enact the legislation by 2017.

Once the directive has come into force, members states will have 18 months to set an advanced biofuel target. Although a guide of 0.5% has been set, a member state can set itself a lower target on the grounds that it is restricted in its ability to meet the target, such as limited production potential, technical or climate constraints, or existing national policies.

Lawmakers also agreed to have fuel suppliers report on emissions deriving from ILUC to EU countries and the European Commission (EC). The EC will then report report back to the Parliament and the European Council on the scope for including ILUC emission factors in existing sustainability criteria.

Reactions to the bill’s passing have been mixed. Many appreciate that the legislation is a step in the right direction towards providing some much-needed policy certainty in the industry, but remain disappointed. ePURE, in particular, says that the bill has lost sight of the original objective – promoting the best-performing biofuels. As several issues have been left to member states’ discretion there is also a risk of uneven implementation of the amended legislation at national level, it says.

Robert Wright, secretary general of ePURE, commented: “The absence of binding targets for advanced biofuels and renewable energy (ethanol) use in petrol, both key measures to differentiate better biofuels, and both supported previously by the European Parliament on several occasions, undermines the core objectives of this reform.”

Commenting on the vote, Nina Skorupska, CEO of the UK Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “If we are, indeed, at the end of this very long road, it is crucial that the next government implements the final agreement as speedily as possible. Many biofuels companies in the UK have simply given up and those brave investors left have been suffering badly.

“Advanced fuels can play a key role in meeting the EU’s carbon reduction targets through reducing ever rising carbon emissions in the transport sector. But if it is to make an impact, it is now time to give biofuels businesses the support they need and ensure that the next generation of investors have the confidence that the policy will not be overturned once again.”