• Waste-based biofuels sector needs smarter EU 2030 package to realize its high potential

    Europe has a significant untapped potential for converting wastes from farming, forestry, industry and households to advanced low-carbon biofuels, but only if it sets a strong sustainability framework and ambitious decarbonisation targets for transport fuels in 2030, finds a new report entitled “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource”.

    The project, supported by a coalition of technology innovators and green NGOs, found that if all sustainable waste from farms, forests, households and industry were used for transport fuels, there could be sufficient fuel to displace about 37 million tonnes of oil annually by 2030. To put this in context, this technical potential would be equal to 16 per cent of road transport fuel demand in 2030.
    “Even when taking account of possible indirect emissions, alternative fuels from wastes and residues offer real and substantial carbon savings,” said Chris Malins who led the analysis for the International Council on Clean Transportation. “The resource is available, and the technology exists – the challenge now is for Europe to put a policy framework in place that allows rapid investment.”
    Scaling up the industry to this highest technical potential could create up to 300,000 direct jobs across Europe in construction, refining and waste collection between now and 2030 (not including indirect employment impacts). It could also provide an alternative to declining fossil fuel reserves and significantly cut Europe’s growing transport emissions, which are destined to become the single biggest source of CO2 by 2030.
    David Turley of the UK research consultancy NNFCC, who led the economic analysis, said: “Our analysis indicates that once deployed at scale, advanced biofuels from agricultural and forest residue feedstocks would require little or only a modest additional incentive to stimulate production at prices comparable to that of current crop-fuelled technologies.”
    However, EU policy uncertainty, especially around the decarbonisation of transport fuels, is blocking these innovations from reaching their full potential, says “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource”.
    “This study shows that with solid environmental safeguards, biofuels produced from waste can deliver real CO2 savings and reduce Europe’s addiction to ever-dirtier oil,” said Pietro Caloprisco, clean fuels officer at T&E, also on behalf of BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and WWF. But, to unleash the full potential of this innovation, Europe requires ambitious decarbonisation targets for transport fuels by 2030 and a revision of its biofuels policy before 2020. Policy certainty is what better biofuels need. 
    Notes to the Editor:
    • The research in this project was conducted by the International Council for Clean Transportation and the NNFCC, and it was reviewed by the Institute for European Environmental Policy.
    • The project was supported by the following organizations: Biochemtex, Birdlife Europe, British Airways, European Climate Foundation, the European Environmental Bureau, European Waste to Advanced Biofuels Association, Institute for European Environmental Policy, LanzaTech, Novozymes, Petrotec, Transport & Environment, UPM, Virgin Atlantic Airways, WWF.