Renew On Line (UK) 50

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 150 July-Aug 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.  Mind the  Funding Gap

2.  1 GW of Wind - RSPB fears

3.  Marine Renewables

4. Still no to Tidal Barrage/Lagoon

5. Biofuels Push

6. 2000 solar  roofs

7. Transmission Debate

8. Mine Methane shafted

9. Lords on Climate Change

10. RO price rises

11. New Renewable projects around the UK

12. Wind power costs

13. Scotland invests  to save energy

14. SEPN charts progress …but SDC wants

15 Renewables around the World

16. EU new : wind at 30GW

17. Nuclear News: Bush bans reprocessing

5. Biofuels Push

As the Energy Bill has been progressing through Parliament various amendments have been proposed. For example, the Lords tried to inject something stronger on biofuels. In February Lord Carter, who is a vice-chairman of  BABFO, the British Association for Biofuels & Oils, moved an Amendment calling for a renewable transport fuel obligation which would require ‘all producers selling road transport fuel in the United Kingdom to show that over the course of a calendar year a specified proportion of such fuel was biofuel’.  For 2006 this proportion would be set at be 1% by energy content increasing annually by 1% until 2010.  The proposal added that ‘no fuel shall be recognised as a biofuel for the purpose of the obligation unless the carbon dioxide saving on a full life cycle [is] in excess of a 60% improvement compared with the relevant fossil fuel comparator; and in the case of biodiesel this shall be ultra low sulphur diesel and for bioethanol it shall be ultra low sulphur petrol’. It also suggested that for the purpose of the obligation, biofuels should be defined as ‘fuels produced from biodegradeable fraction off agricultural products, wastes and residues (including vegetable and animal substances), forestry products and waste and the biodegradeable fraction of industrial and municipal waste’.

 At present he accepted that biofuels cost more than fossil fuels, but he outlined five reasons why a domestic biofuel industry would be a gain for the UK:

‘1.“Liquid biofuels” is the generic term for biodiesel and bioethanol when  used as a substitute for fossil diesel and petrol. These fuels cut CO2 emissions by between 55 and 80%, depending on production techniques and by-product use, when compared with fossil diesel and petrol. A car running now on 100% biodiesel manufactured to EU quality standard EN 14214 would meet the Government’s targets for  biofuels for at least the next 10 years.

2. Biofuels increase the diversity of our fuel supplies. There is real value in supplying road fuel from our farmland rather than from the Middle East and Asia. Both strategic and balance of payments considerations are relevant. Within the 10-year timespan of the EU biofuels directive 2003/30/EC, we could provide at least 5%- rising over time to 10%- of our road fuel needs from our own  rural resources. As oil supplies dwindle and become more expensive, it must make sense to put together the nucleus of a domestic biofuel industry. Home production would also help to keep down the costs of imports.

3. Biofuels improve local air quality. While great strides have been made in improving the efficiency of vehicle engines, cleaner fuel will still have a major role to play as the technology of particle traps and catalytic converters are complementary to biofuels. Efforts are currently being made to ensure that all London taxis run on biofuels, but without further support this will not happen.       

4. Biofuels increase rural productivity. More than half a million hectares of farmland in the UK are idle under set aside. That half a million hectares could produce close to 1m tonnes of biofuels annually. We have wheat exports of the order of 3m tonnes a year. This tonnage could produce 1 tonnes of bioethanol. Under the current review of the common agricultural policy, farmers will have a wider choice of cropping open to them. It is vital that the production of road fuels should be one of the realistic options.

 5. Biofuels conserve energy by leaving the finite fossil fuels in the ground and using current solar energy instead. Best practice, incorporating by-product straw for power generation, can yield a positive energy balance in excess of five to one’.

Lord Carter claimed that ‘given a fair fiscal and legislative position, British agriculture could produce annually 2 million tonnes of road fuel in fairly short order’ and noted that ‘the Treasury have already agreed to a 20p per litre rebate for biodiesel and a 20p per litre rebate for bioethanol is to be introduced in 2005’ but saw this as only a start. ‘The road gas fuels, LPG and CNG, enjoy a rebate in the order of 40p per litre. Surely the environmentally superior biofuels deserve similar support, in whatever form it takes. A requirement that all fuel should include a given amount of biofuel in their total annual sales would ensure that the balance of support not provided by the Treasury is met by the ultimate fuel user.’ 

He concluded by noting that we were well behind what was happening in the rest of the EU. ‘By July of this year, the UK must inform the EU of its plans for biofuel use for December 2005 and for the five following years. The obligation will be an ideal way to settle this matter’.  

·        The Budget in March made a commitment to consult on support measures for biofuels such as enhanced capital allowances and a biofuels obligation for green vehicle fuel – a consultation paper duly emerged, suggesting a biofuels obligation, with a range of 2-5% of transport fuel sales by 2010 . See the Technology section of Renew 150  for discussion of this idea and liquid biofuels generally.


The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has just produced a major report on Biomass stressing heat as well as power production -16GW by  2050.  But oddly it ignores biofuels.  More in Renew 151

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