Photo credits @ Copyright Robin Stott and licensed for reuse under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED (illustrative purposes only)

EU biofuels policy lacks clear path, faces sustainability and cost challenges, auditors warn

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has published a report highlighting the challenges facing biofuels in the EU, warning that the sector's future is uncertain due to a lack of long-term perspective, sustainability concerns, biomass availability issues, and high costs.

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The report, titled „The Future of Biofuels in the EU: Navigating an Unclear Path,” examines the EU’s biofuels policy and its impact on the sector’s development.

It finds that while the EU has allocated significant funding to biofuel research and development, the lack of a clear roadmap for the sector has led to investor uncertainty and hampered the deployment of advanced biofuels.

„Biofuels are a key component of the EU’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy security,” said Nikolaos Milionis, the ECA member who led the audit. „However, our findings suggest that the EU’s current biofuels policy is flawed and could lead to missed opportunities to achieve these goals.”

One of the key concerns highlighted by the ECA is the lack of a clear roadmap for biofuel production, particularly in the aviation sector. The new ReFuelEU Aviation legislation sets ambitious targets for the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), including biofuels, but the EU is currently far from meeting these targets.

The ECA also raises concerns about the sustainability of biofuels, particularly those derived from food crops. The report finds that biofuel production can have negative impacts on biodiversity, soil, and water, and can also compete with food production.

Another challenge facing biofuels is biomass availability. As the demand for biomass for biofuels increases, competition for resources is becoming more intense, and the EU is increasingly reliant on imports of biomass from third countries.

The report also highlights the high cost of biofuels, which makes them less attractive than fossil fuels. This cost disadvantage is compounded by the fact that emission allowances, which are used to reduce CO2 emissions from industry and power plants, are currently cheaper than using biofuels.

In light of these challenges, the ECA recommends that the EU:

  • develop a clear roadmap for biofuel production, including specific targets for the deployment of advanced biofuels,
  • strengthen sustainability criteria for biofuels to ensure that they do not have negative environmental impacts,
  • support research and development of new biofuel technologies,
  • and address the issue of biomass availability through measures such as promoting domestic production and reducing food-crop-based biofuels.

„The EU needs to take urgent action to address the challenges facing biofuels,” said Milionis. „With a clear roadmap, a focus on sustainability, and support for research and development, the EU can help biofuels play a more significant role in achieving its climate and energy goals.”

Photo credits @ Copyright Robin Stott and licensed for reuse under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED (illustrative purposes only)