25 January 2008

The European Commission has proposed a renewable energy Directive which aims to establish a binding target of a 20% share of renewable energy sources in energy consumption in 2020, and a binding 10% minimum target for biofuels in transport. The proposal also calls for a 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Three sectors are implicated by renewable energy: electricity, heating and cooling, and transport. Each Member State will have its own national renewable energy target, and will decide on the mix of contributions from these sectors. Member States will also have the option of achieving their targets by supporting the development of renewable energy in other Member States and third countries. The overall 20% target will require more than doubling the renewable energy share, as today only 8.5% of EU energy is renewable.

The minimum 10% share of biofuels in transport is applicable in all Member States. Biofuels tackle the oil dependence of the transport sector, which is one of the most serious issues affecting security of energy supply that the EU faces, said the Commission.

The Directive would also remove unnecessary barriers to the growth of renewable energy—for example by simplifying the administrative procedures for new renewable energy developments—and encourages the development of better types of renewable energy, such as by setting sustainability standards for biofuels and supporting sustainable power generation from fossil fuels.

Concerns have been raised by the scientific community, environmental groups, and other stakeholders, that conventional, ‘first generation’ biofuels are not sustainable—they may lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, food price increases, and may result in an overall increase in GHG emissions. Such concerns have been raised, for example, in a recent report by British MPs.

The Commission proposes the following criteria to ensure sustainability of biofuels:

  • Land use—Certain types of land should not be converted for the cultivation of biofuel feedstocks. These include lands of high biodiversity (forest undisturbed by significant human activity, highly biodiverse grasslands), and lands with a high carbon stock (wetlands or continuously forested areas).
  • CO2 impact—Cultivation will be considered sustainable if the overall GHG savings from the use of the biofuel are at least 35% (where the carbon stock losses from land use change would not be included in the calculation).

The proposed Directive must be approved by the Parliament and the Council (i.e., the Member States). The target date for the adoption of the legislation is the first half of 2009.

Source: European Commission