The UK’s RTFO (Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation) is the policy dating back to 2007 that enacts an EU Directive requiring member states to ensure that an increasing proportion of transport fuel is renewable. This meant biofuels. I’ve written previously at length about this folly, most recently here. RTFO, folly, policy, maybe we should talk about the “follicy”, the “RTFOlly” or even the “RTFOllicy”!
Anyway, the EU seems to have listened to at least some of the many organisations objecting to their biofuel policy. They’ve come up with not one, but two new Directives which affect national policies on the issue:
- The Renewable Energy Directive (“the RED”), 2009/28/EC (pdf), is broader in scope than transport. It details the requirements on EU member states to meet the 2020 goal of 20% renewable energy in the EU as a whole. Whilst this is broken down into different targets for different countries (for example the UK has to get to 15%), the Directive reaffirms a uniform 10% renewable target for transport fuels. It includes a lot more detail on how this can be done, though, including sustainability requirements of various kinds.
- A new Fuel Quality Directive (“the FQD”), 2009/30/EC (pdf) which amends an earlier FQD by introducing an Article 7 (actually I now see there’s a bit more complexity than that – you can’t take anything on trust, can you?), which introduces two extra requirements:
- to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transport fuel by 6% by 2020;
- for transport biofuels to meet certain sustainability criteria. Apparently these are to all intents and purposes the same as those included in the RED, so perhaps the FQD is a Directive too far and the RED should have just covered everything.
Accordingly the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has initiated not one, but two reviews (hey, we can create a legislative mess just as well as they can in Brussels!), with consultations on both open until next Thursday (2nd June):
- The RED Public Consultation, which considers amendments to the RTFO, to meet the new Directive including biofuel sustainability criteria.
- The FQD Public Consultation, which only covers the requirement to reduce by 6% by 2020 the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of transport fuel or energy.
One of the problems with biofuel policy in the EU – apart the very existence of quotas and subsidies in the first place – is that it has become hideously complex. There are no doubt many little devils in the detail. But all I’m going to cover in this post is one aspect of the RED.
It seems that the EU has actually done something sensible. They’ve introduced a clause to ensure that the 10% renewable energy in transport target is technologically neutral. That is, they’ve back-tracked on trying to second-guess what kind of non fossil-fuel powered cars many of us will be driving by 2030 or so. Yeap, they’ve only gone and allowed renewable electricity (and hydrogen for that matter) to count towards the 10% target.
Here’s what they say in paragraph 4 of article 3 of the RED:
“4. Each Member State shall ensure that the share of energy from renewable sources in all forms of transport in 2020 is at least 10% of the final consumption of energy in transport in that Member State. For the purposes of this paragraph, the following provisions shall apply:
(a) for the calculation of the denominator, that is the total amount of energy consumed in transport for the purposes of the first subparagraph, only petrol, diesel, biofuels consumed in road and rail transport, and electricity shall be taken into account;
(b) for the calculation of the numerator, that is the amount of energy from renewable sources consumed in transport for the purposes of the first subparagraph, all types of energy from renewable sources consumed in all forms of transport shall be taken into account;
(c) for the calculation of the contribution from electricity produced from renewable sources and consumed in all types of electric vehicles for the purpose of points (a) and (b), Member States may choose to use either the average share of electricity from renewable energy sources in the Community or the share of electricity from renewable energy sources in their own country as measured two years before the year in question. Furthermore, for the calculation of the electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by electric road vehicles, that consumption shall be considered to be 2,5 times the energy content of the input of electricity from renewable energy sources.
By 31 December 2011, the Commission shall present, if appropriate, a proposal permitting, subject to certain conditions, the whole amount of the electricity originating from renewable sources used to power all types of electric vehicles to be considered.
By 31 December 2011, the Commission shall also present, if appropriate, a proposal for a methodology for calculating the contribution of hydrogen originating from renewable sources in the total fuel mix.”
I’m afraid I can’t be held liable for any migraines induced by clauses a) and b). I suggest we come back to those when we’re feeling at our best.
It’s clause c) that’s interesting. But when we look at the DfT’s RED Consultation document (pdf) this is what they say (on p.39-40):
“11.6.1. Allowing all renewable fuels to receive RTFCs
We propose to remove the specific list of renewable fuels which may count towards a supplier’s obligation to supply renewable transport fuel in article 5(3) of the RTFO Order. Instead the Order will allow the renewable part of any transport fuel to be eligible for an appropriate number of RTFCs.
We believe our proposal will reduce the burden on industry by enabling any newly developed fuels to automatically count towards the RTFO.
The RED permits all forms of renewable energy to be used to count towards the 10% transport target. While the Directive does allow for the use of renewable hydrogen to meet this target, there is not currently a methodology in place for calculating the contribution of hydrogen from renewable sources. However, the Directive does require the European Commission to come forward with a proposal for such a method by 31st December 2011. We do not propose any amendment to the RTFO to allow renewable hydrogen to be eligible for RTFCs at this time but we will keep this issue under review.
Similarly, we do not propose to allow renewably generated electricity for transport to be eligible for RTFCs at this time. Again, we will keep this issue under review.” [my stress]
This is a bit odd, since the EU clearly said in article 3, paragraph 4, clause a) that in calculating the total energy used in transport:
“…only petrol, diesel, biofuels consumed in road and rail transport, and electricity shall be taken into account.”
which is a tad imprecise (presumably the “only” is present because they assume member states will want to minimise this figure), but I think can be taken to mean:
“…all petrol, diesel, biofuels and electricity consumed in road and rail transport, and no other fuel, shall be taken into account.”
and in clause b) more clearly that:
“…all types of energy from renewable sources consumed in all forms of transport shall be taken into account.”
The DfT’s RED Consultation document, then, provides no evidence that we know what the RTFO target should actually be, because electricity used to power transport has not been taken into account.
Furthermore, the argument for electricity is not “similar” to that for hydrogen, as the RED Consultation dismissively states in section 11.6.1 (above). Unlike for hydrogen, the RED does supply a “methodology… for calculating the contribution [of electricity] from renewable sources”. In fact, it supplies two methodologies! Pending a proposal for more accurate calculation (due by the end of 2011), the UK could elect to use either the proportion of renewable energy in the EU as a whole or in the UK (RED Article 3, paragraph 4, already quoted above).
Not including electricity makes the 2020 target more difficult to meet, because, both in the EU as a whole and in the UK, the proportion of renewable energy in electricity will be much greater than the 10% RED transport fuel target. Indeed the target under the UK’s Renewables Obligation scheme for the proportion of electricity from renewable sources by 2015 is 15% (keep on these numeric alliterations – must be a word for that – aren’t they?).
And it’s not as if the proportion of transport powered by electricity is trivial, since it already includes the majority of rail, including the London Underground a few trams and the odd remaining milk float! That’s before we take account of the Climate Change Committee’s targets for electric vehicle uptake!
Why the omission? One possibility is that we don’t care, because we’re quite happy to promote biofuels to an even greater extent more than mandated by the EU.
But this hardly seems likely. Remember I said we’d have to come back to the EU’s clauses a) and b)? Well, I’ve steeled myself with a strong cup of coffee and am ready to tackle it. What these clauses say is that you can count renewable fuel used off-road (in farm vehicles and pleasure-boats etc – the DfT even have an abbreviation, NRMM, “non-road mobile machinery” for this set of vehicle categories) towards the target proportion of renewable road and rail fuel! Completely bonkers, of course. No doubt there’s a reason, some fix they got themselves into trying to implement the policy. Let’s not dwell on that.
The point is that the DfT proposes to scale back its RTFO targets to take account of the inconsistency between clauses a) and b). They lay out policy options (section 11.5, p.28ff) and note (on p.31) that:
“Given our concerns regarding the sustainability of biofuel, at this stage we do not wish to see any additional increases in the volume of biofuel supplied in the UK above those already set out in the current RTFO [which did not take NRMM fuel into account]. We therefore propose to pursue Option B [to scale back the annual RTFO targets – which is actually done retrospectively (scaling back targets retrospectively? – we’re definitely not in Kansas any more!) in Table 3 on p.32].” (my stress as usual, as well as comments in square brackets)
A second possibility is that maybe the DfT hasn’t realised the significance of the inclusion of electricity. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Because there’s another curious passage in the RED Consultation document. On p.50 we find:
“11.7.2. Preventing the use under the RTFO of renewable fuel that has already been used under another obligation
As discussed earlier, the RED has two targets for the supply of renewable fuel. In order to ensure that renewable fuel is not counted twice towards the different targets, we propose to require that suppliers submit a declaration stating that the renewable transport fuel for which they are claiming an RTFC has not been used to discharge any other renewable energy obligation (for example the Renewables Obligation).” (my stress)
But the Renewables Obligation relates specifically to electricity generation!
The DfT’s FQD Consultation document (pdf) adds even more confusion:
- On p.6, in section 6, “Who should read this consultation?” it includes “a provider of electricity for use in transport”, a category not included in the corresponding section of the RED Consultation document.
- On p.10 in section 7, “Overview of the FQD” they note very clearly that:
“Furthermore, Article 7a(1) requires Member States to ensure that providers of electricity for use in road vehicles can choose to contribute to the GHG reduction obligation if they can demonstrate that the electricity they provided was used in electric vehicles.” (my stress)
- On p.14, in section 10, they note that they will:
Establish rules for grouping and the participation of electricity providers for electric vehicles;
- And they discuss the issue on p.34, in section 11.12, “Electricity for use in road vehicles”:
“The FQD requires Member States to ensure that providers of electricity for use in road vehicles can choose to contribute to the GHG emission reduction obligation if they can demonstrate that the electricity they provided was used in road vehicles.We propose to designate electricity providers as being those entities that sell electricity for public consumption. In order for an electricity provider to contribute to the GHG reduction obligation we would require them to supply adequate proof that the electricity they provided was used in road vehicles.
The European Commission is in the process of considering how to account for the GHG emissions associated with electricity. Initial proposals from the Commission have suggested that Member States would be able to choose between assigning the GHG intensity of electricity used in electric vehicles as being equal to either the Member State average, or the EU-wide average for electricity generally.”
A strange reading of the RED, which to me is not an “initial proposal”, but an “interim measure”, allowing progress towards the 2020 target to be tracked – more thorough accounting would make the target easier to achieve.
Why, then, has the DfT (or at least the RED Consultation team) ignored the opportunity to meet the RED transport fuel obligation by – at least in part – using renewable electricity? My guess is that there are two main reasons:
- They’ve baulked at the sheer complexity. For example, different numbers of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are awarded for a unit of energy depending on the technology used to generate the electricity. Converting them into Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) would require either knowledge of the energy source or assuming that they are representative of the mix.
- Vested interests now exist in the biofuel supply market. Perhaps, although the DfT is now concerned about the sustainability of biofuels, they feel politically unable to reduce the total amount of biofuel in the UK’s quota below that previously assumed (even though, to meet the original quotas more biofuel would have had to be supplied because some would “leak” into the NRMM market and be unable to receive RTFCs).
It seems to me that these problems – assuming my guesses are correct – can be overcome. A rule (such as an average weighting for all renewable sources on the network) for converting ROCs to RTFCs is perfectly feasible. And even this is not absolutely necessary, since – to point out once again something the DfT seems to have misunderstood – the EU has allowed assumptions about the proportion of renewable electricity supplied to the transport sector to be made.
If renewable electricity suppliers are denied the opportunity to benefit from the RTFO they have a clear case for complaint. The whole point of the latest EU Directives is surely to ensure that the latest EU thinking – including technological neutrality and effectively a lower biofuel target for 2020, as well as measures to ensure biofuel sustainability – is included in the rules for schemes operated by the member states.
It does not appear that the UK’s RTFO scheme will be compliant with the EU’s RED following the current review.