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Marginal land use changes for varying biofuels volumes

This report reflects on the RED-induced biofuels policies of individual EU member states in light of the recently produced EU studies on ILUC and in light of practical aspects such as (agricultural) feedstocks availability and fuel quality restrictions for blending of biofuels. It concludes that member states’ biofuels policies and ambitions appear rather inefficient and focused on a suboptimal biofuels blend.

The National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) of the individual EU member states indicate that the range of biofuels that will be applied in 2020 will consist for at least 1/3 but probably up to ½ of biodiesel. Bio-ethanol will make up approximately ¼ of the total mix, with waste-based biofuels and renewable electricity making up the rest. This deviates significantly from the ½ bio-ethanol, ½ biodiesel blend considered in the IFPRI study currently used by the EU Commission as the principal source of information on the indirect land use change (ILUC) induced by EU biofuels policy.

Based on RED and recent ILUC studies the anticipated mix of biofuels will yield an estimated greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction of 6-17 Mt CO2 eq./a, deriving mainly from utilization of waste-based biofuels and renewable electricity and to a lesser extent from sugar-crop-based bio-ethanol. However, in contrast to the overall picture, the utilisation of oilseed-based biodiesel will probably give a net increase in GHG emissions owing to ILUC-related emissions of these gases. It is uncertain, moreover, whether there are sufficient rapeseed feedstocks for biodiesel available on the global oilseeds market to realize the projected volumes of 1st generation biofuels.

The above conclusion may serve as a guide for adjusting EU biofuels policy and further specifying the terms thereof. In this respect the EU might follow the example of the Swedish government, whose biofuels policy focuses on the use of biogas, bio-ethanol and diesel substitutes based on residues from chemical pulp production. Sugarbeet may be a land-extensive European alternative to tropical sugarcane. 

Authors CE

Geert Bergsma
Harry Croezen
Matthijs Otten

Delft, October 2010


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