ECA: The EU’s support for sustainable biofuels in transport – An unclear route ahead

The European Court of Auditors is an EU body, that regularly checks whether EU funds are spent correctly, thereby focusing on evaluating the work of the European Commission. The ECA recently published a “Special report, the EU’s support for sustainable biofuels in transport – An unclear route ahead”.

The report reflects on the state of biofuels policies, its effectiveness and long-term perspective, and sustainability aspects. The ECA establishes that the production capacity of biofuels is lagging behind the ambitious targets set by the European Commission. The ECA gives its objective and factual analysis on why biofuels are not yet contributing sufficiently to reducing climate emissions from transport. It points out several causes such as: a lack of stability in biofuels policy; a lack of policy predictability which increases risks for private investments and reduces the attractiveness of the sector; uncertainties about the categorisation of advanced biofuels that may pose risks for long-term investments.

These issues are part of a more overall judgment by the ECA, stating that the European Commission fails to provide a clear roadmap ahead to ensure the ramp up of biofuel production to meet the ambitious targets. In particular, the ECA points out that food and feed-based biofuels are still dominant in use while the Commission states in 2014 that these type of biofuels have a limited role to play. Moreover, the waste and residue-based biofuels have not sufficiently been incentivised to ramp up production. The most affordable waste-based biofuels (Annex IX-B) have been limited in their contribution, while the so-called ‘advanced’ biofuels (Annex IX-A) are by the Commission’s definition not technically mature and require risky and costly investments. The low sub targets for advanced biofuels, and a lack of further stimulation are not sufficient to cover for these higher risks and costs for scaling up production.