10 January 2007

The European Commission proposed to establish a new Energy Policy for Europe to combat climate change and boost the EU’s energy security and competitiveness. The package of proposals set a series of targets on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and renewable energy. The Commission proposed that the European Union commits to cut GHG emissions by at least 20% by 2020. The Commission believes that when an international agreement is reached on the post-2012 framework this should lead to a 30% cut in emissions from developed countries by 2020.

The 20% GHG emission reduction target will require a massive growth in three renewable energy sectors: electricity, biofuels, and heating and cooling. The renewables target will be supplemented by a minimum target for biofuels of 10%. In addition, a 2007 renewables legislative package will include specific measures to facilitate the market penetration of biofuels, as well as heating and cooling.

To facilitate the growth of the low carbon energy sector, the Commission will propose a strategic European Energy Technology Plan. The EU will also increase by at least 50% its annual spending on energy research for the next seven years.

Biofuels are the only way to significantly reduce oil dependence in the transport sector, said the Commission. Transport produces nearly a third of today’s CO2 emissions, and emissions are expected to grow significantly. In the biofuels directive adopted in 2003, Europe set the objectives of replacing 2% of gasoline and diesel for transport by biofuels by 2005, and 5.75% by 2010. The 2005 target was not met, with the 2005 biofuel share in the EU estimated at only 1% (the top biofuel users were Germany at 3.75%, Sweden at 2.23%, and France at 0.97%). The Commission therefore proposed reinforcing the legislative framework, with a 10% minimum for the market share of biofuels in 2020.

Today’s biofuels include mostly bioethanol (produced in the EU from sugar and starch crops such as beet or cereals) and biodiesel (made from oleaginous plants such as rapeseed and sunflower). While most biofuels deliver significant savings in GHG emissions, it is possible to produce them in ways that do not do this, or that cause other environmental problems, noted the Commission. An incentive/support system will be proposed to avoid this and to encourage the development of “second-generation” biofuels, such as those made from woody material, grasses and some additional types of waste.

Source: European Commission