Biofuels Policy and Legislation

A number of directives cover biofuels use in the EU including the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, the Fuel Quality Directive and the Biofuels Directive 2003. Relevant EC communications, stakeholder statements and links to further information on biofuels legislation are presented below.

EC legislation relating to biofuels

 On 30 November 2016, the Commission published a proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive to make the EU a global leader in renewable energy and ensure that the target of at least 27% renewables in the final energy consumption in the EU by 2030 is met.

Biofuels and bioliquids are instrumental in helping EU countries meet their 10% renewables target in transport. The Renewable Energy Directive sets out biofuels sustainability criteria for all biofuels produced or consumed in the EU to ensure that they are produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

The main criteria

  • To be considered sustainable, biofuels must achieve greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% in comparison to fossil fuels. This savings requirement rises to 50% in 2017. In 2018, it rises again to 60% but only for new production plants. All life cycle emissions are taken into account when calculating greenhouse gas savings. This includes emissions from cultivation, processing, and transport.
  • Biofuels cannot be grown in areas converted from land with previously high carbon stock such as wetlands or forests.
  • Biofuels cannot be produced from raw materials obtained from land with high biodiversity such as primary forests or highly biodiverse grasslands.

Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC

Renewable Energy Directive

  • Approval by European Parliament on 17 Dec 2008
  • By 2020, 20 % share of RES in final energy consumption, 20 % increase in energy efficiency
  • 10 % target for RES in transport in each Member State
  • National Renewable Energy Action Plans required by June 2010
  • Burden sharing for RES targets except transport
  • Harmonised approach with Fuel Quality Directive
  • No biofuel feedstock from carbon rich or biodiverse land
  • EC has to report on compliance with environmental and social sustainability criteria of major biofuel exporting countries
  • Minimum GHG reduction for biofuels 35% and 50% from 2017 on; 60% for new installations from 2017 on; for plants operating in Jan 2008 GHG requirement will start in Apr 2013 (amended in Directive (EU) 2015/1513)
  • Bonus of 29 g CO2/MJ for biofuels from degraded/contaminated land
  • EC proposal for incorporating indirect land use changes by the end of 2010; special clauses for plants built before 2013 (see Directive (EU) 2015/1513)
  • Biofuels from waste, residues, non food cellulosic material, and lignocellulosic material will count twice for RES transport target
  • Mass balance approach for certification of sustainability
  • EC will negotiate bilateral and multilateral agreements
  • Establishment of a committee for sustainability of biofuels

Amendment to the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC)

Directive 2009/30/EC amending Directive 98/70/EC on environmental standards for fuel (Fuel Quality Directive) aims at:

  • further tightening environmental quality standards for a number of fuel parameters,
  • enabling more widespread use of ethanol in petrol and
  • introducing a mechanism for reporting and reduction of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from fuel
  • Reduction in life cycle GHG emissions from energy supplied. Binding target of 6% as first step while leaving open the possibility for increasing the future level of ambition to 10%.
  • To that effect, in a 2012 review, the Commission will need to assess a further increase of the ambition level of 2% from other technological advances, such as the supply of electricity for use in transport. A further 2% is envisaged to be achieved by the use of CDM credits for flaring reductions not linked to EU oil consumption.
  • Incorporation of sustainability criteria for biofuels used to meet GHG reduction requirement. Creation of specific Committee jointly with the RED to coordinate the energy and environment aspects in future development of biofuel sustainability criteria.
  • Reduction of sulphur content of inland waterway fuel in one step to 10ppm by 1 January 2011.
  • Phasing in of 10% Ethanol (E10) petrol: To avoid potential damage to old cars, continued marketing of petrol containing maximum 5% ethanol guaranteed until 2013, with the possibility of an extension to that date if needed.
  • Derogations for petrol vapour pressure for cold summer conditions and blending in of ethanol are subject to Commission approval following an assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impacts, in particular on air quality.
  • Increase of allowed biodiesel content in diesel to 7% (B7) by volume, with an option for more than 7% with consumer info.

Amendment of the Fuel Quality Directive and Renewable Energy Directive

On 9 September 2015, Directive (EU) 2015/1513, the "iLUC Directive", was published in the Official Journal of the European Community. This directive limits the way Member States can meet the target of 10% for renewables in transport fuels by 2020, bringing to an end many months of debate. There will be a cap of 7% on the contribution of biofuels produced from 'food' crops, and a greater emphasis on the production of advanced biofuels from waste feedstocks. Member States must then include the law in national legislation by 2017, and show how they are going to meet sub-targets for advanced biofuels.


Key elements of the amendment

The contribution of biofuels produced from 'food' crops (to the 10 % renewables in transport target) is capped at 7%

The other 3% will come from a variety of multiple counted alternatives:

  • Biofuels from Used Cooking Oil and Animal Fats (double counted)
  • Renewable electricity in rail (counted 2.5 times)
  • Renewable electricity in electric vehicles (counted 5 times)
  • Advanced biofuels (double counted)
  • Bench mark for the share of advanced biofuels in the transport sector of 0.5%

The agreement also includes the reporting and publishing of data on ILUC-related emissions on both national and European level.

Member States have to transpose the directive into national legislation by mid-2017, and establish the level of their national indicative sub-targets for advanced biofuels.

See Chronicle of the policy debate on the amendment of RED / FQD (Directive (EU) 2015/1513)

Feedstocks "counted double" under the proposed revision to the Renewable Energy Directive

See Fuel quality directive and renewable energy directive (P8_TA-PROV(2015)0100 Fuel quality directive and renewable energy directive II; European Parliament legislative resolution of 28 April 2015 on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 98/70/EC relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (10710/2/2014 – C8-0004/2015 – 2012/0288(COD))).

See also: Correction to the above document (this affects a single sentence).

In the Annex to the above proposal, the following feedstocks are considered to be non-food feedstocks (suitable for conversion to "advanced biofuels") and hence are counted double towards the 10% 2020 target for renewable fuels in transport under the RED.

Part A. Feedstocks and fuels whose contribution towards the target(s) referred to in Article 3(4) shall be considered to be twice their energy content:

(a) Algae if cultivated on land in ponds or photobioreactors

(b) Biomass fraction of mixed municipal waste, but not separated household waste subject to recycling targets under Article 11(2)(a) of Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives.

(c) Bio-waste as defined in Article 3(4) of Directive 2008/98/EC from private households subject to separate collection as defined in Article 3(11) of that Directive.

(d) Biomass fraction of industrial waste not fit for use in the food or feed chain, including material from retail and wholesale and the agro- food and fish and aquaculture industry, and excluding feedstocks listed in Part B of this Annex.

(e) Straw.

(f) Animal manure and sewage sludge.

(g) Palm oil mill effluent and empty palm fruit bunches.

(h) Tall oil pitch.

(i) Crude glycerine.

(j) Bagasse.

(k) Grape marcs and wine lees.

(l)Nut shells.

(m) Husks.

(n) Cobs cleaned of kernels of corn.

(o) Biomass fraction of wastes and residues from forestry and forest-based industries, i.e. b ark, branches, pre-
commercial thinnings, leaves, needles, tree tops, saw dust, cutter shavings, black liquor, brown liquor, fibre sludge,
lignin and tall oil.

(p) Other non-food cellulosic material as defined in point r) of the second subparagraph of Article 2.

(q) Other ligno- cellulosic material as defined in point s) of the second subparagraph of Article 2 except saw logs and veneer logs.

(r) Renewable liquid and gaseous fuels of non-biological origin.

(s) Carbon capture and utilization for transport purposes, if the energy source is renewable in accordance with Article 2(a).

(t) Bacteria, if the energy source is renewable in accordance with Article 2(a).

Part B. Feedstocks whose contribution towards the target referred to in the first subparagraph of Article 3(4) shall be considered to be twice their energy content

(a) Used cooking oil.

(b) Animal fats classified as category I and II in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 laying down health rules
as regards animal by-products and derived products not intended for human consumption and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 (Animal by-products Regulation)

'Anti-dumping' duties

As of 27 November 2013 the EU will impose definitive anti-dumping duties on imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia. The antidumping measures consist of an additional duty of on average 24.6% for Argentina and 18.9% for Indonesia. The measures are based on a decision taken this week by the Council, following a 15-month investigation carried out by the European Commission. It revealed that Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel producers were dumping their products on the EU market. The dumped exports had a significant negative effect on the financial and operational performance of European producers.

COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 193/2009 imposing a provisional anti-dumping duty on imports of biodiesel originating in the United States of America

  • EC procedure started 13 June 2008 on initiative of
    European Biodiesel Board
  • Background: subsidies for B99 in the US
  • Anti-dumping and countervailing duties approved on 11 Mar 2009 and published 12 Mar 2009 (EC 193 and 194/2009), differentiated by producer
  • Anti dumping duty 23.6-208.2 €/t
  • Countervailing duty 211.2-237.0 €/t

Member States action plans and reporting on biofuels and bioenergy

The DG Energy "Renewable Energy" webpage includes the National Renewable Energy Action Plans for all member states as well as important reports and communications on sustainable cultivation and use of biomass, bioenergy and biofuels, as follows:

EC policies and communications

Joint input to SET Plan governance discussion from four ETPs and EUREC

On 18 March 2015 the European Commission presented to the SET Plan Steering Group the first draft of its proposals for reforming the governance of the SET Plan. In meetings with European Technology Platforms (ETPs) in renewable energy in the weeks that followed, EUREC offered to draft a joint reaction to the EC’s proposals, and they accepted the proposal.

The emerging joint EUREC-ETP consensus was discussed with the European Commission on 8 June in a meeting between the EC and representatives from EUREC and the ETPs. Five main messages (see below) were sent two days later, with a full-length paper being sent to the EC and national delegates to the SET Plan Steering Group on 31 August. The final paper was signed by the ETPs EU PV TP, RHC-Platform, EBTP and ETP-Smart Grids, as well as EUREC. [Souce: EUREC website October 2015].

EC Communication on Climate and Energy Policy Framework 2020-2030 (Jan 2014)

On 23 January 2014 the EC published a communication: A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 This is summarised in an accompanying EC press release.

Of particular relevance to biofuels was Q&A 12:

"The future of EU transport development should be based on alternative, sustainable fuels as an integrated part of a more holistic approach to the transport sector. The Commission has therefore not proposed new targets for the transport sector after 2020 (current targets: 10% renewable energy for the transport sector. The share of renewables in transport rose to 4.7% in 2010 from 1.2% in 2005). Based on the lessons of the existing target and on the assessment of how to minimise indirect land-use change emissions, it is clear that first generation biofuels have a limited role in decarbonising the transport sector. A range of alternative renewable fuels and a mix of targeted policy measures building on the Transport White Paper are thus needed to address the challenges of the transport sector in a 2030 perspective and beyond."

EC communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation (May 2013)

On 2 May 2013 the EC published a Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation COM(2013) 253 final. The plan - updating the existing SET-Plan - aims to bridge the gap between research and market deployment and provide a boost for a wider range of energy technologies, including the cutting of energy consumption, and innovation in energy storage, radioactive waste management and alternative fuels, as well as renewable cooling and concentrated solar thermal power for industrial heating. A strengthened SET Plan steering group has been developing a roadmap for energy innovation. The new plan will be financed through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme and other sources such as the European Investment Bank and the Connecting Europe Facility. Funding would also come from the member states and the private sector.

See also: Technology Assessment SWD(2013) 158 final

and JRC Scientific and Policy Reports R & D Investment in the Technologies of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan

Other EC and European Parliament policy activity on biofuels

On 16 October 2013 the European Parliament Intergroup on 'Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development' held a workshop entitled 'The future of Biofuels as alternative fuel for the transport sector '. A summary report and presentations are now available.

On 24th January 2013 the EC published COM(2013) 17 Clean Power for Transport: A European Alternative Fuels Strategy, which encompasses biofuels as well as LNG, SNG, electricity and hydrogen. See also the Press Release Europe Launches Clean Fuel Strategy. The strategy document advocates support for sustainable advanced biofuels produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks and wastes, as well as algae and microorganisms. It recommends no further public support for first generation biofuels produced from food crops after 2020.

PDF IconEBTP comments on the RED / FQD Review - a consensus of comments made by members of EBTP Working Group 4 Policy and Sustainability as well as members of the EBTP Steering Committee.

References and Further Reading

EBTP Position on Rappoteur Amendment to the RED/FQD Proposal

ePure Press Release

European Biodiesel Board Press Release

iLUC Prevention Study - Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development

NASA Earth Observatory Tropical Deforestation Update

Renewable ethanol: enabling innovation and sustainable development: State of the Industry 2015

Baseline time accounting: Considering global land use dynamics when estimating the climate impact of indirect land use change caused by biofuels

Land Use Change Greenhouse Gas Emissions of European Biofuel Policies Utilizing the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) Model

A change for the worse: The campaign to re-dredge ‘Indirect Land Use Change'

Greenhouse gas impact of marginal fossil fuel us

Links to EC Policies, initiatives and official information relating to biofuels

Biofuels are covered by a number of existing EU policies and initiatives on bioenergy, sustainable transport and the wider bioeconomy, for example: the SET Plan; the European Industrial Bioenergy Initiative; Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy; and the Strategy for a Sustainable European Bioeconomy.

Further links are included below:

Background Information and EU Policy »

Europa pages on Bioenergy and Biofuels »

Directives and Communications »

Older legislation »

Background information and EU Policy

Relevant EU policy documents and links include :

SET plan

Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation SWD(2013) 157 final / SWD(2013) 158 final (May 2013)

JRC support to the SET Plan

Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy

Strategy for a Sustainable European Bioeconomy

A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy

Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS)

See also MEMO/09/437 – Questions and answers

Renewable Energy Road Map

EU Strategy for Biofuels (2006)

Clean Vehicles Directive

Emission performance standards for new cars

Climate Change: 2050 - the future begins today

DG Energy pages on bioenergy and biofuels

Renewable energy


Directives and Communications

Further information on European Legislation is available through EUR-Lex the portal to European Union law. EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. The system makes it possible to consult the Official Journal of the European Union and it includes inter alia the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. It offers extensive search facilities.

EC communications and directives on biofuels and bioenergy