BRUSSELS – The European Commission’s new package of proposed European Union energy laws and policies will promote low-emissions and renewable energy, such as advanced biofuels and electricity, for transport, the EU executive body claims.
The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals aim to drive the transition to clean energy through energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for what the EU calls its energy union, essentially a zone of common energy laws uniting all 28 member states.
As part of this initiative, the EC proposes a strategy for automated and integrated transport systems and ways to promote Earth-friendly designs in vehicles, for example.
In releasing the proposals Nov. 30, EC officials called the 4,300-page package an “early Christmas present” for the European Parliament ,the EU’s directly elected legislative body that must negotiate the details with EU member states, a process that could take two years.
“Transport still depends nearly entirely on fossil fuels,” the EC notes in a memo released before the official launch. “Oil supplies about 94% of all energy used to power European cars, trucks, ships and planes.”
But with the package’s flagship measure targeting a 30% improvement in energy efficiency, along with generating 27% of EU members’ energy from renewable sources, transport fuels consumed in the EU will have to produce at least 70% fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than fossil-fuel alternatives.
The proposals encourage the development and use of advanced alternative fuels, essentially biofuels that are not made from food crops, through blending rules for fuel suppliers.
“We want to have more renewable energy with an advanced-biofuels goal,” an EU official says at a Brussels press briefing before the package’s release.
The EC proposes capping the contribution of food-based biofuels to the EU’s renewable-energy use target at 7% in 2021 and reducing it to 3.8% in 2030; increasing the overall target for use of advanced biofuels and renewable-transport fuels from 1.5% in 2021 to 6.8% in 2030; and raising the minimum share of energy from advanced biofuels and biogas produced from feed from 0.5% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2030.
An existing target for member states to use at least 10% renewable energy for transport will be dropped after 2020.
Automakers Want Bar Set High for Better Biodiesel
ACEA, the European automakersʼ trade group, is praising the move away from first- generation fatty-acid methyl ester (FAME) – biofuels, but criticizes the advanced-biofuel definition included in the EC proposals – “essentially anything that is produced from a list of raw materials, such as waste oils or fats,” an ACEA spokesperson tells WardsAuto.
“In-field experience in cold seasons has shown that (FAME) biodiesel, blended using such materials, can result in vehicles stopping due to fuel filters blocking, causing breakdowns or risking accidents when the drivers try to accelerate,” the spokesperson says.
“ACEA is not against such renewable materials being used to make biodiesel, but it must be properly processed and deliver high and guaranteed quality for vehicle customers. Otherwise (producers of) such raw materials will take advantage of a loophole to qualify as ‘advanced biofuels’ while being no better than what we have today with FAME.”
Sustainable-transport campaigners Transport & Environment (T&E) go further, slamming the EC for “favoring unproven biofuels over clean electricity for transport” by not promoting electric vehicles.
Laura Buffet, an oil and biofuels specialist with T&E, says to help EVs run “with the cleanest fuel possible,” the EC should have set a greenhouse-gas-based target to promote the use of advanced fuels, such as those used in California. T&E also calls for a renewable-electricity target instead of subtargets for different biofuels, for example, a 1.7% cap on the amount of used cooking oil and animal fat that can contribute to the 6.8% target set for 2030.
Buffet notes EC proposals contain “few incentives for electric vehicles.” But she concedes it is premature to draw conclusions when a follow-up proposal on cars’ and vans’ carbon-dioxide emissions has yet to be released and will not be aired until EU ministers debate the package in detail at an upcoming European Council heads of government meeting.
Maros Sefcovic, EC vice president-energy union, cites proposals aimed to improve the uptake of EVs by improving charging infrastructure and putting more funding into developing better batteries.
Notably, a directive within the package to approve buildings’ energy performance states EV charging points must be installed in all commercial buildings with more than 10 parking spaces by 2025, although an earlier draft required this for 2023.
“In due course, we want charging our electric car to be as easy as charging our phone,” an EU official tells WardsAuto. Green groups, however, say the current proposal is not good enough, as residential homes only need re-cabling.
“This means less recharging points overall,” Buffet says in calling for installation of EV charging points on major roads and in urban areas too.
In addition, the text of the integrated-transport-systems strategy says the EC will make €2 billion ($2.1 billion) in future funding available under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program on digitalization studies, some linked to electric transport systems.
Under one Horizon 2020 study priority – on “electro-mobility” – the EC promises energy efficiency will be improved via studies on “rapid development and deployment of next-generation electric vehicles based on advanced battery designs and new powertrains, an innovative charging infrastructure and associated business models and services.”
And a new Cleaner Transport Facility, an umbrella financing initiative launched the day after the energy package’s release by the EC and the EU’s European Investment Bank, will help finance the decarbonization of the European transport sector by, for example, promoting alternatively fueled buses and cars.
The automotive industry may be eligible for funds under two further mechanisms highlighted in the package: the Connecting Europe Facility that supports trans-European networks and infrastructures in transport, telecommunications and energy, and the European Fund for Strategic Investment – a €16 billion ($17.2 billion) guarantee from the EU budget, complemented by €5 billion ($5.4 billion) from the EIB – earmarked for “expansion of renewable energy and resource efficiency.”