UK sets out support for biofuels in RTFO proposals
Proposed legislative changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) include a rise in blending mandates in equal steps to the 2020 target of 9.75pc by volume. This would support a 5-6pc share of renewable energy use in domestic transport by that date, with at least that share of supply to be maintained to 2030.
Three options for an approach to crop-derived biofuels are presented by the department. A first option is to increase current levels of crop-derived biofuels supply as a proportion of total fuel use up to 7pc by volume. But this is at odds with a third option presented by the department, which suggests a full phase-out of crop use.
A second option, stated as a preferred outcome, suggests current levels should be maintained but should not be increased. The current share of crop-derived biofuels used in transport domestically is around 1.5pc on an energy basis, or around 2pc by volume.
The preferred approach is aimed at ensuring an increase in the future supply of biofuels derived from waste and at negating higher emissions linked to indirect land-use change (ILUC).
Meanwhile, the production of "development" fuels created from wastes using "advanced" technology, as well as renewable fuels of non-biological origin — such as renewable hydrogen, biomethane and biobutanol — should be encouraged, according to the department. The RTFO currently only rewards renewable fuels of biological origin, such as ethanol derived from wheat.
As a part of this, the department proposes creating a sub-target for specific development fuels — to increase over the period from 2017-2030. This would not include fuels derived from used cooking oil and tallow, which are widely used feedstocks for biodiesel. All three of the crop-derived biofuels policy options propose the same volume targets for advanced fuels in the form of a development fuel sub-target.
Also suggested is the incorporation of a waste hierarchy concept, as set out in the European Commission's Waste Framework Directive, into the UK's RTFO. This would avoid the use of feedstock materials, which would otherwise have higher value applications. The department also proposes current double-counting criteria be maintained.
Incentives for the use of renewable fuels in aviation as a part of the RTFO are also suggested. There would not be an obligation to supply a certain level of fuel but suppliers would be able to claim Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) for eligible fuel.
Separately, the carry-over of RTFCs should be suspended in 2020, according to the department. The 2020 target should instead be met with fuel supplied in that year, in line with the EU target under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
The RTFO consultation period is expected to last six weeks. The introduction of E10 — gasoline with a maximum share of 10pc ethanol — is presented as a question in the annexes of the proposal, to consider "any evidence of UK refining and refuelling infrastructure that precludes or supports a moderate introduction".
The UK has a 4.75pc biofuels blending mandate in volume terms under current RTFO legislation to support the government's policy on reducing GHG emissions.
The result of the UK's EU referendum is not expected to have an effect on the direction of domestic transport policy, according to the proposal. The European Commission is expected, on 30 November, to confirm an obligation for fuel suppliers to blend low-carbon fuels and advanced biofuels, with shares of food-derived biofuels set at 7pc in 2021 and 3.8pc in 2030.