We support an ambitious EU target of 40% renewable energy, but this cannot be achieved without European agricultural and forest biomass!

After the July announcements by the Commission, the proposals of the 'Fit for 55' package are now making their way through the European institutions, with debates expected in the European Parliament, notably on the revision of the Renewable Energy directive. To achieve its objective, the Commission has proposed to raise the renewable energy target from 32% to 40% by 2030. This is a major challenge, but it is not unattainable. For this to happen, all technologies must be mobilised and discussed on equal footing, while respecting the principle of technological neutrality.

 

Currently, it is on this point that the Commission's proposal has the most difficulty in convincing me: by indicating a clear preference for electricity from intermittent renewable sources, the proposal largely neglects the leading role that can be played by European sustainable agricultural and forest biomass. This is a shared concern by many in Brussels. Pina Picierno, the Agriculture Committee's rapporteur on the text, recently said, "It's not just electricity, but also biogas and biofuels". We agree.

 

As the media's spotlight is often on wind or solar power, few people are aware of this basic fact: today biomass is the main source of renewable energy in the EU. Biomass under its various forms, whether biofuels for road transport, biogas for heat or electricity production, or wood energy such as pellets or wood chips, accounts for almost 60% of renewable consumption in the EU. Meanwhile, the generation of electrical energy in the EU is currently only done with approximately 35% of renewable energy sources. Sustainable crop-based biofuels have contributed to the effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in road transport over the last twenty years. Biomass fuels cover many sectors today that would be difficult to electrify. To take a concrete example, for the farming community, the question of electric tractors is far from being a reality.

 

Hampering the role of European sustainable biomass with excessive sustainability provisions would be problematic in many respects. As far as biofuels are concerned, we know that the majority of cars and roads will still be powered by internal combustion engines in the next 15 years, so sustainable crop-based biofuels will remain an immediately available and most efficient alternative to fossil fuels, especially for the use in the existing vehicle fleet. On the biogas side, its compatibility with existing gas boilers can greatly facilitate the transition to renewable heat without the need for major disruption or infrastructure development. Finally, in the heating and cooling sector, the electrification of the heating sector as targeted by the Commission is impossible for some Member States while European agriculture and forestry have the potential to produce additional quantities of certified and sustainable biomass for this purpose.

European agriculture is committed to sustainability and to the continuous improvement of its greenhouse gas (GHG) balance. We must also rely on renewable energy sources and alternative fuels. The use of European crop-based biofuels is compatible with the objectives of security of food supply, including animal feed, environmental protection, combating the negative effects of climate change, energy security and growth and employment in rural areas. In this respect, the rapeseed/sunflower-biodiesel-rapeseed cake for animal feed or sugar beet/cereals-ethanol-animal feed sectors are exemplary.

 

In the coming days, the debates will intensify, especially in the European Parliament, within the Committee on Environment and Industry, Research and Energy and in the Council working groups, we hope that co-legislators will consider the key role played by European certified sustainable agricultural and forestry biomass in all sectors. Following the ten or so Member States who recently wrote to the Parliament and to the Council and the openness of the Slovenian Presidency regarding the flexibility on the mechanisms to achieve the Greenhouse Gas intensity reduction target in transport, we are calling for a stable long-term policy to ensure current and future investments in the bioenergy sector. Let us not forget that the revision of the renewable energy directive was made only a few weeks after the provisions of the RED II were effectively implemented in national law! Bioenergy is a decentralized, rural and sustainable source of energy that can diversify our sources of energy supply and provide opportunities for our farmers and foresters; let's preserve it.

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