First reaction of the European farming community to the REPowerEU communication

Europe imports 40% of its gas, 27% of its oil and 46% of its coal consumption from Russia. Faced with the war in Ukraine, yesterday the EU presented its communication called REPowerEU to cut its dependence on Russian fossil fuels well before 2030.

 

Among the key announcements made yesterday, the Commission presented its ambition to double its target of biomethane production to reach 35 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2030. Copa and Cogeca welcome this overall objective as we believe that the production of renewable biogas is a segment still showing great potential to help make the EU consumption of gas more sustainable while mitigating our external dependency on Russia. Anaerobic digestion also allows more organic fertilisers to be produced from digestates for agricultural practice, in accordance with the expectations of the European Green Deal. Today the EU produces 3 bcm of biomethane, scaling-up to 35bcm in few a years will require an unprecedent mobilisation of sustainable certified biomass feedstock, mostly agri-food waste and residues and the building of thousands of new units. The farming sector stands ready to contribute to this unprecedent challenge. Regarding the proposal to triple the use of solar energy on roofs or heat pumps, farm buildings have a potential that is already well known, it shouldn't be forgotten in the June communication of the Commission.   

 

Copa and Cogeca support the stated ambition to shorten the procedures for granting permits for new Renewable energy projects as featured in this communication. All too often, agricultural RES project holders are faced with red tape that are becoming even more intolerable under the current conditions.

 

If the communication released yesterday insists on the role that could be played by biogas, the EU farming and forestry community is shocked by the lack of reference for the other forms of bioenergy like biofuels and solid bioenergy. Copa and Cogeca have been saying this for several months now, and the war in Ukraine only strengthens our conviction: faced with a dependence on imports and unreliable supply chains, we must mobilise the entire bioenergy sector. Biomass under its various form accounts for almost 60% of the consumption of renewables in the EU - today being over 20% of the total EU energy consumption. A one size fits all approach in the EU energy mix would be a strategic mistake. Still, biomass fuels provide solutions to many sectors today that would be difficult to electrify for instance.

 

REPowerEU is addressing agriculture and horticulture when it comes to the sensitive sectors impacted with energy price increases. Continued flexibility whether with tax relief or State aid - as done with the Temporary Covid State Aid Framework - remains crucial for European farmers and cooperatives to tackle the disruptions caused by the war in the context of exceptional increases of production costs for farmers which touches for example energy, diesel fuel, and feed fertilisers. It was expected that the burning issue of fertiliser prices and markets would be tackled in this communication. Copa and Cogeca take note of the fact that this was only partially the case, and we hope that the other key communication expected for 23 March on the resilience of the food chain will propose more robust answers to farmers. Fertiliser prices on the European market have been at historic levels for almost a year now, well over 600€/tonne for the most used one. Despite Copa-Cogeca's repeated calls for political action at European level nothing significant has been done so far, the need for action is urgent!

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