UK's new biofuel targets come into force

13 Apr 2018 | John McGarrity

New biofuel targets in the UK take effect this Sunday, aiming to double the use of renewables in the UK transport sector by 2020, promote advanced biofuels from waste for use in sectors such as aviation, and reduce the country’s reliance on imported biodiesel.

Changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will compel distributors of transport fuel that supply at least 450,000 litres a year to sell more renewable fuel.

The new targets will rise from 4.75% currently to 7.25% by the end of the year, 9.75% by 2020 and 12.4% in 2032.

The UK’s Department of Transport (DfT) said it wants the transport sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions 6% by 2020.

The government has placed an initial maximum cap of 4% for crop-based biofuels in 2018, reducing it annually from 2021 to reach 3% in 2026 and 2% in 2032.

According to evidence given by the DfT earlier this year, this threshold would enable current producers of crop-based bioethanol in the UK to continue supplying the market, but would effectively exclude new capacity from this source, favouring second-generation biofuels instead.

The changes will also bring renewable aviation fuels and what the government calls ‘renewable fuels of non-biological origin’ into the RTFO for the first time, providing a strong financial incentive for biogas to be converted into biomethane and claim credits for use in transport.

Until now, producers of biomethane could only claim for renewable energy credits through the Renewable Heat Initiative to use renewable gas for heating buildings, and many are expected to switch focus to earning Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs). 

Referring to aviation fuels, Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Airline Group, which owns British Airways, said: “These incentives have enabled alternative fuel sources to be developed for cars and lorries, while aviation has traditionally been heavily dependent on fossil fuels. This Government initiative will support our plans to build Europe’s first waste to jet biofuel plant in Britain”.  

The revised RTFO legislation sets an additional target for advanced waste-based renewable fuels, starting at 0.1% in 2019, rising to 2.8% in 2032.