Directive puts a spanner in the works for bioenergy

Photo: Deromegruppen Pellets

According to the Swedish Forest Industries Federation (SFIF) there are both pros and cons for the development of the bio-based economy in the 23 October position from the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) on the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The debate on how to define sustainability criteria for forest biomass has undoubtedly been harsh. Due to an unfortunate lack of knowledge in the ENVI committee about sustainable forest management, the committee during its negotiations suggested criteria, which could have made it more or less impossible to qualify any forest or forest-industry bioenergy as sustainable.  

- These criteria would have been devastating for the forest industry and for Sweden and the European Union to deliver on climate goals. After lengthy negotiations, the committee, however, finally choose to respect national legislation and practice when assessing whether bio energy from forests and forest industries is sustainable. Just like us, the committee concluded that they want to see a risk based approach, says Helena Sjögren, Head of Bio-energy Policy at the SFIF.

Regarding the manufacturing of advanced biofuels, SFIF considers that the ENVI committee position hinders such development by defining unnecessary and non-justifiable criteria.  The position states, that if a feed stock from forest industry is used to produce a biofuel, that biofuel is only advanced if   the producer  can ensure that no other user of that same raw material is disfavored because of the biofuel production.

– This will be impossible. A company can keep track of their own customers and suppliers, but they will not be able to identify what other actors within completely different sectors are doing, says Helena Sjögren. She continues:

– I do not understand why the ENVI committee chooses to meddle in on this subject. The sustainability criteria should be about sustainability. They should not govern how renewable feed stocks are used, neither should they define what products the market should develop and produce.

Tall oil has for years been used in Sweden as feed stock for a renewable diesel fuel for transportation, with a recognized high climate benefit. The fact that the ENVI committee chose to remove tall oil from the list of feedstocks eligible for production of advanced biofuels is upsetting the Swedish forest industry.

– Tall oil is a residue from the pulp industry and should of course continue to be eligible to be used for advanced biofuels , says Helena Sjögren.

She is also concerned that the committee concluded that the European Commission will have the authority to remove – not only add -  raw materials from the list of eligible feed stocks.

– This will increase the risk for entrepreneurs and will hamper investments in the manufacturing of advanced biofuels, since feed stocks can be taken off the list simply after a decision by the European Commission.

In its further work with the revision of RED, the Swedish Forest Industries Federation urge the European Parliament to ensure that the revision of the RED, truly supports the renewable energy at the expense of fossil energy.