EC, criticized for choosing the right sources

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The consortium advising the European Commission on adequate sources for the production of sustainable biofuels has been criticized for failing to disclose to industry the criteria used to assess raw materials, according to Euractiv.

The European Commission has asked the consortium to prepare a report to guide legislators on potential raw materials to be added to the EU-approved list for the production of advanced and waste-based biofuels.

The report, presented at the Future Fuels conference on Wednesday (January 26th), assessed raw materials for biofuels that could be added to the list of approved raw materials – Annex 9 of the Renewable Energy Directive – and identified risks of fraud for existing and potential raw materials.

But industry sources have expressed dismay that they have not been informed about how to assess the sustainability and risk of fraud in raw materials, arguing that a negative perception of certain raw materials will hinder new investment and make it more difficult. achieving renewable energy targets.

Six consulting and research organizations were involved in the report: E4tech, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Cerulology, Wageningen University & Research, Navigant and SCS Global Services.

E4tech, Cerulology and Navigant are private consulting firms headquartered in the United Kingdom, while SCS Global Services is headquartered in the United States. Navigant is also part of the American consulting firm Guidehouse.

Critics also raised questions about the neutrality of the report’s consultants, given the links of organizations with NGOs that openly criticize biofuels as an energy source.

“The real issue is that the Commission has opted for a consortium of consultants to do this review, and several of its members have personal interests and cannot be considered impartial in doing this work,” said a source familiar with the matter. who spoke to EURACTIV on condition of anonymity.

“How is it possible for E4tech, Cerulology and ICCT to receive this important work and why didn’t the Commission ask universities to do it instead? It’s an incestuous lot, “said the source.

ICCT is a non-profit organization in the USA, which became famous in 2015 for breaking the dieselgate scandal. In the past, it has produced critical reports on crop-based biofuels, highlighting issues related to land use change and long-term sustainability.

However, the ICCT categorically rejected the allegations that the organization was not an impartial arbitrator. “ICCT always pursues science in a sound, evidence-based approach and does not lobby policy makers for biofuels or other issues,” Stephanie Searle, ICCT’s director of fuels, told EURACTIV.

In response to allegations from industry, E4tech, the project consortium leader, said an extensive consultation with industry was conducted at the beginning of the reporting process, which included requesting evidence and documents from stakeholders to help analyze each matter. prime.

“This was an appropriate way to engage stakeholders in an independent study and in line with the European Commission’s contractual requirements,” said Sébastien Haye, Head of Sustainability and Resources at E4tech.

Haye also emphasized that the report’s mission is to provide an independent, evidence-based analysis to determine whether biomass feedstocks could meet EU eligibility criteria for inclusion in Annex 9.

“We do not make any recommendations to the European Commission on whether or not raw materials should be added to Annex 9. As such, stakeholders have the opportunity to discuss directly with the European Commission as part of the Delegated Act process,” he said. .

E4tech is ready to discuss any aspect of the analysis after its publication by the European Commission, Haye added.

In private messages to EURACTIV, sources expressed dissatisfaction with the industry’s consultation, saying they had challenged requests to provide commercially sensitive information because they perceived that the consortium included “thinking” consultants with links to lobbying NGOs. against biofuels.

A total of 30 raw materials were assessed in the report, seven of which were marked as “no concern”, making them likely candidates for inclusion in Annex 9.

Nine raw materials raised “significant concerns”, making them unlikely to be accepted by lawmakers, while the other 14 were marked as having “some concerns”, meaning that the level of risk may be acceptable if put in place. application of mitigation measures.

In recent years, the European Commission has curtailed the production of crop-based biofuels due to environmental concerns, setting a 7% limit on the amount of crop-based biofuels used in the transport sector.

Approved raw materials for advanced biofuels and waste, derived from waste and waste materials, are listed in Annex 9 of the EU Renewable Energy Directive. This Annex is divided into Parts A and B.

According to EU rules, raw materials can be added to this list, but cannot be removed. These can be added by the Commission through a “delegated act” – a legislative instrument that allows the EU executive to speed up technical updates of legislation.

Part A raw materials include agricultural, forestry and waste residues such as straw, bark and leaves and animal manure.

Part B currently has two inputs: used cooking oil and animal juice – both raw materials that can be processed into fuel using established or “mature” technology. Part B raw materials are limited to 1.7% of transport energy targets (however, countries may ask the Commission to raise this limit because it is a “weak ceiling”).

Only six of the raw materials were evaluated as eligible for processing by advanced technologies. This means that the remaining raw materials would only be eligible for Part B, making them subject to a ceiling in accordance with the rules of the Renewable Energy Directive.