Renewable fuels: how can the EU be fit for its carbon-free future?

  • Dinner debate in Strasbourg

Chaired by Jerzy Buzek MEP, President of the EEF


Giulia Cancian, Secretary General, European Biogas Association
Andrea Martelli, Head of Biofuels Supply & Trading, Eni Sustainable Mobility
Pauliina Uronen, Fellow R&D and Innovation, Neste 

Jerzy Buzek MEP, EEF President opened the discussion by emphasizing the pivotal role of renewable fuels in achieving EU climate neutrality goal by 2050. He particularly stressed their importance in hard-to-electrify sectors, such as maritime, aviation and heavy-duty transport, underlining that this new phase of development is a valuable asset in advancing EU’s climate action.

Giulia Cancian, Secretary General, EBA highlighted that biogas and biomethane are green energy vectors that can deliver on circular economy, waste management and on the wellbeing of rural communities. She explained that the feedstock used in their production is already sustainable and it includes agricultural residues, sequential crops, industrial wastewaters and other resources that do not compete with the food industry. Ms Cancian pointed out that EU’s biomethane production has the potential to reach 41 bcm by 2030, surpassing the 35bcm target established in the REPowerEU Plan. This is due to favourable regulatory conditions, robust sustainability criteria and well-established renewables targets.  However, she also mentioned some obstacles, including the CO2 standards for cars and vans and those for HDVs, but also the Annex IX to the RED. She recommended a clear definition of “CO2 neutral fuels” inclusive of all renewable fuels compliant with the RED, along with the implementation of a carbon correction factor, to internalise GHG emission savings.

Pauliina Uronen, Fellow R&D and Innovation, Neste discussed her company’s commitment to transform conventional refineries into biorefineries. She presented their current range of products, which includes renewable biodiesel, sustainable aviation fuels, renewable polymers and components for renewable plastics, all derived from a feedstock comprised of 95% waste and residues. They have been carrying out studies to phase out crude oil by the mid-2030s, if the regulatory framework is in place. Ms Uronen stressed the importance of aligning the HDVs Regulation with the definition of biofuels outlined in the RED. This is essential for policy coherence to facilitate investment by companies. She concluded by emphasizing the need to consider and rely on all available solutions to mitigate and stop the climate crisis.

Andrea Martelli, Head of Biofuels Supply & Trading, Eni Sustainable Mobility presented Eni’s efforts in Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) production, primarily sourced from waste and residues, following the phasing out of palm oil which ended in 2022. He also introduced Eni’s investments in the African continent, with a focus on a vertical integration approach in crops not competing with the food chain. Mr Martelli underlined the importance of establishing a clear and consistent policy framework in Europe to continue supporting investments and maintaining technological neutrality. In the context of the new HDVs legislation, he underlined the need to evaluate the entire carbon footprint of the vehicles throughout their lifecycle. He suggested the implementation of a carbon correction factor, aligning it with existing EU legislation based on a well-to-wheel approach, such as the RED and the EU ETS.

During the Q&A session with participants, various topics concerning renewable fuels were discussed.  These included the sustainability of the feedstock, the potential prioritisation of hard-to-decarbonise sectors like aviation and maritime, the associated risks connected of drop-in fuels, the use of biomass in the energy sector, the potential need for revising the Energy Union Governance act, and the role played by transport and storage.