European biofuel groups have reacted with dismay to the European Commission’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which proposes to cap food-based biofuels’ contribution to renewable energy transport targets at 7% in 2021, going down to 3.8% in 2030.

The proposed RED was published on 30 November as part of the EC’s Clean Energy Package and covers the post-2020 period up to 2030.

The EC has proposed reducing the maximum contribution of conventional biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, wheat and sugar beet, from a maximum of 7% of transport fuels in 2021 to 3.8% in 2030.

The EC has also proposed a mandatory blending obligation of 6.8% to promote other ‘low emissions fuels’ such as renewable electricity and advanced biofuels used in transport.

“The proposal conflicts with the EU member states’ ability to decide upon their own renewable energy mixes,” the European renewable ethanol association ePure said.

“A reduction of the limit on conventional biofuels use to 3.8% undermines the existing €16bn in European biofuel production facilities since 2003.

“The proposed phase-out of conventional biofuels means that the Commission has now proposed four different changes to the targets for renewable energy use in EU transport since the adoption of its first biofuels policy in 2003.

“It also backtracks on the compromise agreed by EU institutions as part of the revision of the RED in 2015, which member states have only begun the process of implementing. This permanent policy flux has created an impossible policy environment that significantly jeopardises further investments in both conventional and advanced biofuels in Europe.”

Danish biotech firm Novozymes also criticised the EC’s RED proposals.

“The proposed gradual phase-out of all conventional biofuels would only increase the share of fossil fuels in transport and add greenhouse gas emissions,” said Thomas Schrøder, Novozymes’ vice president for biorefining, in a Biofuels International report. “By 2020, the aim was to have 10% renewables in transport by 2030. The ambition is lowered to 6.8%.

“The EC has failed to reflect the latest science and evidence that demonstrate the very high sustainability profile of a series of conventional biofuels. For example, conventional ethanol effectively reduces greenhouse emissions today (by 64% on average compared to petrol) even when indirect impacts are accounted for. They have a legitimate role to play in the EU energy mix,” he added.

The association of the German biofuels industry (VDB) also said in the Biofuels International report that if the proposal was implemented, “the absurd consequence would be that the consumption of fossil fuel will rise significantly by the year 2030, while the use of biofuels and other renewables in transport will break down and decarbonisation will fail”.