Bioenergy-related policy

Recent EU Policies

This section aims at giving an overview of the EU bioenergy-related policy. Please check the European Commission’s website, which contains all up-to-date information on the EU’s climate change, environment and energy policies.

RED II is the Recast of the Renewable Energy Directive. The text was approved by the EP plenary session in January 2018. The main objectives are:

  • By 2030, EU should boost energy efficiency by 35%
  • Renewable energy sources should account for 35% of total consumption
  • MEPs vote to ban palm oil in biofuels from 2021

The institutions are now carrying on the trialogue, and discussing the text after the approval of the Council on the Energy Union in December 2017.

More information:

2015: RED and the Fuel Quality Directive were amended by Directive (EU) 2015/1513 to strengthen the GHG saving criteria. It also addresses indirect land use change by limiting to 7 % the share of conventional biofuels that can be counted for the 2020 renewable energy target in transport and sets an indicative target of 0.5 % for advanced biofuels. To incentivise the use of renewable electricity in the transport sector, it can be counted 2.5 times for rail transport and five times for electric cars. In order to receive public support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels and bioliquids used in the EU must satisfy the following sustainability criteria set out in the amended Renewable Energy Directive, which apply regardless of the geographical origin:

  • Biofuels must achieve GHG savings of at least 35 % in comparison to fossil fuels. From 2018, this value rises to 50 %. Installations put into operation after
    5 October 2015 must achieve GHG savings of at least 60 %.
  • 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.

The GHG savings of bioenergy are calculated by comparing all life cycle emission  (cultivation, processing and transport, but excluding biogenic emissions from growth, decay and combustion) of bioenergy production to the typical GHG emissions of the fossil fuels they replace. A methodology for calculating GHG savings is set out in the annexes of the directive, and default values are provided for the most common production routes.

Source: IEA Bioenergy Countries’ Report Bioenergy policies and status of implementation (2016), access on:

In 2014, the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework was adopted. It builds on the 2020 climate and energy package, and it sets three key targets for the year 2030:
• At least 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions
• At least 27% share for renewable energy
• At least 27% improvement in energy efficiency
The framework is also in line with the longer term perspective set out in the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, the Energy Roadmap 2050 and the Transport White Paper. In contrast to the Renewable Energy Directive, the Climate and Energy Package sets neither specific sub-targets for any of the sectors, nor binding targets for individual countries.

During August, the Commission published its Report on the sustainability of solid and gaseous biomass for electricity, heating and cooling in the EU. The document analyses the enormous greenhouse gas savings the use of biomass is reaching, the present barriers and bottlenecks the sector has to face and the presents the planned actions at EU level to maximise the sustainability of biomass.  

In July, the Commission presented its Circular Economy Package consisting in a Directive proposal to review the Union’s recycling and other waste-related targets, the Communication Towards a Circular Europeand 3 more Communications aiming at fostering green jobs, boosting the competitivity of green SME and theconstruction of sustainable buildings. The Directive has among other targets, to increase recycling/re-use of municipal waste to 70% in 2030, reduce food waste generation by 30% by 2025 or phase out landfilling for recyclable waste by 2025. The Communication establishes a common and coherent EU framework to promote the circular economy and launches a renewed resource efficiency agenda for the coming years.

In June the Council reached an agreement on the Commission proposal COM (2012) 525amending the Renewable Energy (2009/28/EC) and Fuel Quality Directives (2009/30/EC) Directives. The Council agreed on rising the limit of use of first generation biofuels from a 5% as the Commission had proposed to a 7%, 3 points below the goal established by Directive 2009/28/EC of a 10% renewable energy share for transport. The agreement also comprises other aspects such as subtarget of 0,5% for advanced biofuels, additional incentives for these kind of biofuels by double counting their contribution to the renewables energy targets or the reporting on ILUC and its effects on the emissions savings generated by biofuels. The Directive proposal still has to be agreed by the EU Parliament which had agreed on a first generation biofuels cap of 6%.

Also in June, the EU Commission published the European Energy Security Strategy, a document that analyses the Union’s weaknesses and bottlenecks and establishes a series of short, medium and long term initiatives and investments to increase the security and resilience of the EU’s energy system. Among them, the support and development of autoctonous and renewables energy sources such as biomass shall be primordial.

In April the Commission announced the Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020, applicable since July, which shall gradually introduce market based measures, introducing competitive bidding mechanisms and the establishment of feed-in premiums that will substitute feed-in tariffs. These guidelines will not be applicable for small installations in a first stage (1MW), while smaller ones (500kW) will continue to benefit from any form of aid, including feed-in tariffs.

2013: In the beginning of 2013 the Commission published its Clean Power for Transport package which provides a framework to guide technological development in this field and the progressive adaptation and diffusion of this technologies within the Union. The package consists of two documents, a Communication on a European alternative fuels strategy, and a proposal for a Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructureThe first document analyzes the bottlenecks the Union should face in order to make alternative fuels a viable and consolidated option and proposes a series of actions and goals, specifically regarding vehicles using electricity, hydrogen or LNG. The second document should  require Member States to adopt national policy frameworks for the market development of alternative fuels and their infrastructure, set binding targets for the build-up of alternative fuel infrastructure, including common technical technical specifications, etc. 

In May, the Commission presented its Communication on Energy Technology and Innovation setting out a strategy to enable the EU to have a world-class technology and innovation sector fit for coping with the challenges up to 2020 and beyond. Among other measures, the Communication proposes the development of an Integrated Roadmap addressing the energy system as a whole and measures along the entire innovation chain by the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan stakeholders and the design of Action Plans with Member States. 

In the last trimester, the Commission adopted a new Strategy for forests and the forest-based sectoridentifies the key principles needed to strengthen sustainable forest management and improve competitiveness and job creation. It underlines the need for more coherence and consistency between forest-linked EU policies and the importance of addressing the whole value-chain giving biomass sector a key role. 

2012: In October, the Commission presented its proposal COM (2012) 525amending the Renewable Energy (2009/28/EC) and Fuel Quality Directives (2009/30/EC) Directives. Among other measures, it would reduce from a 10% to 5% the goals for renewables in the transport sector for first generation biofuels and would take into consideration ILUC factors.

In the first trimester of the year, the Commission published the Communication Innovating for Sustainable Growth – A Bioeconomy for Europe. It outlines a coherent, cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approach to the development of the bioeconomy. The plan therefore focuses on three key aspects: developing new technologies and processes for the bioeconomy; developing markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors; and pushing policymakers and stakeholders to work more closely together.The strategy seeks synergies and complementarities with other policy areas, instruments and funding sources which share and address the same objectives, such as the Cohesion Funds, the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies (CAP and CFP), the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), environmental, industrial, employment, energy and health policies.

2011: The main development in the field of the EU’s Energy policy was the adoption in December of the Communication Energy Roadmap 2050 which identifies the challenges posed by delivering the EU’s decarbonisation objectives. Based on the analysis of a set of scenarios, the document describes the consequences of a carbon free energy system and the policy framework needed.

During the first semester of 2011 the Commission presented its Roadmap for moving towards a competitive low carbon economy in 2050. The Roadmap suggests that, by 2050, the Eu should cut its emissions to 80% below 1990 levels through domestic reductions alone. It sets out milestones such as reductions of the order of 40% by 2030 and 60% by 2040. It also shows how the main sectors responsible for the Union’s emissions – power generation, industry, transport, construction and agriculture – can make the transition to a low-carbon economy most cost-effectively. The Roadmap was published with other relevant Communications such as the Energy Efficiency Plan 2011 which emphasises the necessity to implement the means for reducing final energy consumption in buildings and transport. Among other measures, the Commission proposes to review the Ecodesign Directive to define stricter standards for products or to promote cogeneration.

In March, the Commission adopted the White Paper Roadmap towards a single European Transport Area, a comprehensive strategy to reach very ambitious goals by 2050 such as the phasing out of conventionally-fueled cars in cities, a 30% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030, 40% sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation and 40% reduction of emissions in shipping and a cut in 60% of transport emissions by 2050. It sets out to remove major barriers and bottlenecks in many key areas across the field of transport infrastructure and investment, innovation and the internal market. 

In July, the EU commenced the recognition of the first voluntary sustainability schemes for biofuels. These apply for the 28 Member States and are essential for proving that these fuels fulfil the sustainability criteria approved in Directives 2009/28/EC and 2009/30/EC. Thus, they can count towards mandatory national goals and governments can financially support them. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. So far, 17 schemes have been recognised by the Commission.

Also in 2011, the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath was launched. It is a roadmap with clear milestones to achieve an annual production of two million tonnes of sustainably produced biofuel for aviation by 2020. The initiative is sustained by the European Commission and the leading companies in the field of aviation (Lufthansa, Air France/KLM and British Airways) and biofuels (Neste Oil, Choren Industries, Biomass Technology Group and UOP). It targets establishing appropriate financial mechanisms to support the construction of industrial advanced biofuel production plants or foster mechanisms to support the development of storage and distribution of biojet fuels.   

2010: 2010 was a key year for the EU since it meant the adoption of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the ten-year growth and jobs strategy which serves as the general framework for the development of the Union’s policies, especially those related with areas such as research and innovation, energy or industry. The document establishes a set of goals, some of them had been already outlined in other previous documents. Among these, the EU commits to reach a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to 1990 and to reach 20% share of renewables in gross production or a rise 20% in energy efficiency: Furthermore, the Strategy establishes a governance system in order to help Member States to reach their goals and defines 7 flagship initiatives such as the Innovation Union, Resource Efficient Europe or An Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Area. These Flagship Initiatives are composed of several actions and work as framework documents for other more specific initiatives.  

In June, the Commission presented a Communication to set up a system for certifying sustainable biofuels. The document lays down the criteria for the schemes to be recognised by the Commission and It aims at encouraging industry, governments and NGOs to work together on the creation of certification schemes for all types of biofuels, including those imported in the EU

In November, the Commission published the Communication Energy infraestructure priorities for 2020 and beyond. It aims at ensuring that strategic energy networks and storage facilities are completed by 2020.

2009: The Union approved a set of very relevant Directives such as 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use from renewable sources, complemented by 2009/30/EC on Fuel Quality. The first one established a framework for the use of energy from renewable sources in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to promote cleaner transport. It sets up a common target of 20% share of renewable energies in the gross final consumption and nationals goals, as well as a specific target of 10% share in the transport sector by 2020. Regarding biofuels, the Directive establishes minimum standards for the reduction of greenhouse emissions, defines sustainability criteria and outlaws financial support for those biofuels which do not respect these. Regarding the Fuel Quality Directive, it requires a reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuels used in vehicles by up to 10% by 2020, a bigger reduction of other type of emissions and further specifications regarding the sustainability criteria described in Directive 2009/28/EC.

2008: The Commission published the legislative proposals designed to support the EU Climate and Energy Package in January.

The energy package includes a series of legislative proposals as the Directive for the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, a revision of the Fuel Quality Directive and the legislation regulating the emission allowance trade scheme or new Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection. This legislation was approved during 2008 and 2009.

2007: The Renewable Energy Roadmap (Jan, 2007) represented a new policy orientation of the European Commission to move renewable energies closer to the top of the EU’s agenda.  In March 2007, EU leader’s endorsed the Commission’s roadmap on renewable energy and signed up to the energy plan of 20% target for renewables in the EU’s overall energy mix by 2020 (current target is 12% for 2010) and an obligation to have 10% biofuels in the EU transport fuel mix by 2020 (current target 5.75%).

2005-2006: The Green Paper of March 2006 – “A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy”, brought increased discussion on energy -fossil and renewable.  It focused on six main areas: competitiveness and the internal energy market, diversification of the energy mix, solidarity (to prevent supply crises), sustainable development, innovation and technology and external policy (for energy supply).

In December 2005, the Commission released the Biomass Action Plan (BAP).  It’s role was to map out the potential for biomass in the EU renewable energy mixture and to present guidelines on how to harness this energy in a sustainable manner.

Following on from the BAP was renewable energy and are covered by this directive: electricity, the EU Strategy for Biofuels released in February 2006 which contained further specification following on from the  released in December 2005.  The report is based upon a threefold objective: further promotion of biofuels in the EU and in developing countries, preparation for the large-scale use of biofuels, and heightened cooperation with developing countries in the sustainable production of biofuels.

The following websites provide useful information and data on EU renewable energy policy, production
and consumption.
• EU Transparency Platform for Renewable Energy
• Directive 2009/28/EC on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources http://eur TXT/?uri=celex:32009L0028
• A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 content/EN/ ALL/?uri=CELEX:52014DC0015
• Current policy & implications to NREAP implementation

EU policies and initiatives on bioenergy:
• Strategic Energy Technology Plan
• European Industrial Bioenergy Initiative (EIBI)
• EU strategy for biofuels TXT/?uri=URISERV:l28175
• Energy 2020 A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy TXT/?uri=uriserv:en0024
• A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy
• Strategic Energy Technologies Information System (SETIS)
• Renewable Energy Road Map TXT/?uri=URISERV:l27065
• Clean Vehicles Directive vehicles/directive/
• Climate Change: 2050 – the future begins today