Plenty of Space for Biofuels in Europe

The REFUEL project, a report commissioned by the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe program to examine the biofuels potential in Europe, concludes that EU biofuels targets can be met with conventional feedstocks and current technology without major agricultural land use changes or environmental consequences. The two-year REFUEL-project is coordinated by the Energy research Center of the Netherlands, and implemented by a consortium of seven European institutes with different disciplinary backgrounds.

Biofuels targets can be met, says the report, without compromising food and feed supply. It also will not require conversion of forestland, grassland and nature conservation areas into arable land. Because there are new opportunities for increasing crop and livestock yields in some new EU member states, there will be more agricultural land for biofuel feedstock cultivation.

However, the report also says that while the EU’s 10 percent target for biofuels by 2020 can be met by with first-generation biofuels and moderate imports, only advanced, second-generation biofuels will deliver a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy security. These biofuels, produced from residues and woody or grassy plants, show substantially higher yields per hectare of land, and provide far better opportunities for the EU industry to develop an innovative sector, the report adds. In comparison, conventional biofuels such as biodiesel from oil crops and bioethanol from sugar crops and cereals perform less adequately.

In order to develop the sector, the required production technology needs to be further developed and deployed. New supply chains for agricultural and forestry residues and crops will also need to be developed. Overcoming these hurdles will require a favorable and stable investment climate, the report says.

The REFUEL project also shows that cross-sector strategies can help reduce these barriers. Examples are the initial development of biomass supply chains for power generation, or the integration of biofuel plants in district heating systems. In this context, the role of the Central and Eastern European countries will be pivotal, as this region has most of the feedstock potential.

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