21 December 2023


On 13 December, the European Court of Auditors issued a report analysing the EU’s support for biofuels to cut transport emissions, and found that the ever-shifting web of policies have led to an unclear road ahead for the fuels.

The report highlights that the EU allocated €430 million in funding to research projects and the promotion of biofuels for the 2014/-2020 period but moving from research to large-scale deployment is taking longer than expected. On top of that, EU biofuels policy, legislation and priorities have often shifted, making the sector less attractive and impacting investors’ decisions.

As an example, the recently adopted ReFuelEU Aviation sets minimum blending targets for the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as of 2025 and increasing every 5 years, but at present, potential production capacity in the EU hardly reaches a tenth of what will be required in 2030. And there is still no EU-level roadmap on how to speed up production, unlike in the US. The future of biofuels in road transport also remains unclear due to the electrification of the sector and the planned phase out of internal combustion engines for light duty vehicles in 2035.

Overall, the auditors pointed three main issues biofuels are facing: environmental benefits of biofuels tend to be overstated (especially in the case of biofuels produced from feedstock), the availability of biomass limits their deployment and may increase reliance to third countries, and biofuels are still not economically viable compared to fossil fuels.

The report calls on the European Commission to “increase biofuels policy stability” by preparing a pathway for the sector beyond 2030. The EU executive should also better categorise feedstocks to provide clarity to member states and stability to industry. Finally, auditors recommend that the Commission improve the level of data it collects around biofuels, including on the origin of feedstocks (which is currently missing), as well as increasing transparency around the effect of multipliers on the renewable energy share in transport.

Source: European Court of Auditors