Biofuels Policy and Legislation


A number of directives cover biofuels use in the EU including the ILUC-Directive 2015/1513/EU, Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC (RED), the Fuel Quality Directive 2009/30/EC (FQD) and the earlier Biofuels Directive 2003/30/EC. There were amendments to RED and FQD. Currently a revision of RED is under elaboration (the ‘RED II’), in accordance with the common European legislative procedure.

In the EU legislative procedure a proposal by the European Commission (EC) is followed by a process of up to 3 readings and amendments through the European Parliament (EP), its committees and the Council of the European Union. Within those readings several discussions within the Council or its preparatory bodies take place. These result in a series of revised documents. Once the Council approves the amendments the EP goes for a final vote.

The RED II proposal of the EC was published in November 2016 as part of the clean energy package. It has already been discussed intensely in the Council and the Council has recently adopted its position. Also it has had one plenary reading in the European Parliament, and has been on the agenda of the relevant committees (mostly European Parliament’s environment committee ENVI and The Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament ITRE). The final version for the vote can be found here.

Details of the various proposals are provided here.

ETIP Bioenergy has launched a position paper on the European Commission proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) in late October 2017.

Current EC legislation relating to biofuels

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


The main (current) sustainability 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.

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.


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

SET plan

Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS)

See also MEMO/09/437 – Questions and answers

Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy

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

Renewable Energy Road Map

DG Energy pages on bioenergy and biofuels

Renewable energy