Transitioning from conventional to advanced biofuels: What cost for consumers and taxpayers?

The European Commission’s proposal on the Renewable Energy Directive II reduces the cap on the contribution of conventional biofuels to transport fuel from a maximum of 7% in 2021 to 3.8% in 2030. It also sets an obligation to raise the share of other “low emissions fuels” such as renewable electricity and advanced biofuels in transport to 6.8%.

However, some stakeholders claim that the transition to second-generation biofuels will come at a cost that won’t be acceptable to consumers or their political leaders. So how is that cost being measured?

The European Commission put the breaks on conventional biofuels over concerns of carbon emissions resulting from indirect land use change (ILUC). Advanced biofuels emerged as an alternative to conventional “food/feed based” ones, despite the fact that some of the Commission’s proposed advanced biofuels also involve crops and food/feed materials.

Although the advanced biofuels sector has been facing technological and economic challenges, global advanced biofuels production has been forecast to double between 2013 and 2020. Advanced biofuels may offer a series of opportunities, in particular greenhouse gas emission savings and energy security, but also pose a series of challenges, such as sustainability and cost. 

According to some stakeholders, RED II proposes an increasing role for advanced biofuels at the direct expense of conventional biofuels. The Commission’s impact assessment behind RED II refers to substantial cost savings when transitioning from conventional to advanced biofuels. However, questions remain from industry as to whether these claims are accurate. 

EURACTIV organised this workshop to discuss the cost implications related to the transition from conventional to advanced biofuels. Questions included: 

  • How would different generations of biofuels complement or compete with each other over time? 
  • What concrete proposals from policy makers will ensure the success of advanced biofuels?
  • How accurate is the European Commission’s cost assessment of transitioning to advanced biofuels?

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