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Use of cleaner and alternative fuels

Indicator Assessment Created 19 May 2005 Published 03 Oct 2005 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
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Topics: ,
Indicator codes: CSI 037 , TERM 031

Key messages

  • Many Member States have introduced incentives to promote the use of low and zero-sulphur fuels ahead of the mandatory deadlines (a maximum of 50 ppm "low" in 2005 and a maximum of 10 ppm "zero" in 2009). The combined penetration increased from around 20 to almost 50% between 2002 and 2003, but this is still some way off the 2005 target of 100%.
  • The penetration of biofuels and other alternative fuels is low. The share of biofuels in the EU-25 is less than 0.4 %, still far off the 2 % target set for 2005. However, following the adoption of the Biofuels Directive in 2003, national initiatives are rapidly changing the situation.

Is EU's progress towards promoting cleaner and alternative fuels satisfactory?

Low and zero-sulphur fuel use (%), EU-15

Note: N/A

Data source:

European Commission, 2005. Quality of petrol and diesel fuel used for road transport in the European Union: Second annual report (Reporting year 2003). Report from the Commission (COM (2005) 69 final).

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Share of biofuels in transport fuels (%)

Note: The Biofuels Directive aims at promoting the use of biofuels for transport to replace diesel or petrol

Data source:


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Final energy consumption in the transport sector

Note: By 2002, only a few EU countries had consumption of biofuels or were reporting consumption of biofuels to Eurostat

Data source:


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A reduction in the sulphur content of petrol and diesel fuels is expected to have a large impact on exhaust emissions as it will enable the introduction of more sophisticated after-treatment systems. In view of the 2005 (50 ppm) and 2009 (10 ppm) mandates, many Member States have introduced incentives to promote these fuels. However, the capacity of refineries to supply the fuels affects the time it takes for them to penetrate the market.

The combined share of low and zero-sulphur petrol and diesel in the EU-15 in 2003 was 49% and 45% respectively, with a nearly equal split between low and zero-sulphur fuels. Compared with the 2002 figures of around 20%, these fuels have seen significant growth. If this continues at the same pace, both the 2005 and the 2009 targets are within reach. Many countries have abandoned the sale of regular (350 ppm sulphur) petrol and diesel fuel. In particular, Germany leads the way by being the only country offering only zero-sulphur fuel. At the other end of the scale, four countries (France, Italy, Portugal and Spain) do not yet offer low or zero-sulphur fuels in their markets.

Assessment of the market penetration of biofuels is hampered by incomplete datasets, as not all countries have yet set up reporting for this. Based on the available data, the share of biofuels in the EU-25 in 2002 was still low, accounting for 0.34% of all petrol and diesel sold for transport purposes (reported biofuels consumption as a percentage of total gasoline and diesel consumption). This share has more than doubled over the past eight years; however more effort is needed to reach the 2% and 5.75% objectives by the end of 2005 and 2010 respectively. France and Germany have the highest shares of biofuels sold in their markets.

Following the adoption of the biofuels directive in 2003, member states are required to develop plans for market introduction of biofuels and report annually to the European Commission. Most of the plans submitted so far contain national targets somewhat below the indicative targets set in the Directive, but given the short lead time from adoption (summer 2003) to the first target year (2005) this was to be expected. The real test for the resolve to increase the market shares of biofuels will be the initiatives and targets to reported in 2005 and 2006.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

Shares of sulphur-free fuels (<10 ppm), and biofuels in total fuel consumption by road transport (in percentage of fuels sold for road transport purposes). The shares of low and zero sulphur petrol and diesel are calculated by dividing the consumption of each fuel by the total fuel consumption of petrol and diesel respectively. The share of biofuels is based on their energy content and is thus calculated by dividing the energy consumption of biofuels by the energy consumption of all petrol and diesel sold for transport purposes.


Petrol and diesel fuels are measured in millions of liters and presented as shares of regular, <50 ppm sulphur and <10 ppm sulphur, respectively.

Final energy consumption of biofuels, diesel and gasoline for transport are measured in Terajoules net calorific values (NCV) and presented as a percentage of biofuels to the sum of all three fuels.

Table: nrg_102a, unit: 1000toe Thousands tons of oil equivalent (TOE), tj_ncv Terajoules (Net calorific value = NCV), indic_en: 101900 Final energy consumption – Transport, product:, 3230 Motor Spirit, 3260 Gas / Diesel Oil

Table: nrg_1073a, unit: tj_ncv Terajoules (Net calorific value = NCV), indic_en: 101900 Final energy consumption – Transport, product: 5545 Biofuels

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009, Directive 2009/30/EC was adopted which revises the Fuel Quality Directive [Directive 98/70/EC]. It amends a number of elements of the petrol and diesel specifications as well as introducing in Article 7a a requirement on fuel suppliers to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of energy supplied for road transport (Low Carbon Fuel Standard). Fuel suppliers must reduce emissions by 6-10 % by 2020 (relative to 2010 fossil fuels). In addition the Directive establishes sustainability criteria that must be met by biofuels if they are to count towards the greenhouse gas intensity reduction obligation. Progress against the FQD target will be evaluated once annual progress reporting begins in 2012.

The Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC (that repeals the previous 2003/30/EC) establishes a common framework for the promotion of energy from renewable sources. Under this directive, the share of renewable in transport rises to a minimum 10 % in every Member State in 2020. The new directive on renewable energy also aims to ensure that as we expand the use of biofuels in the EU we use only sustainable biofuels, which generate a clear and net GHG saving and have no negative impact on biodiversity and land use.

Member States are required to report to the Commission annually on (1) the measures taken to promote the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels to replace diesel or petrol for transport purposes, (2) the national resources allocated to the production of biomass for energy uses other than transport, and (3) the total sales of transport fuel and the share of biofuels, pure or blended, and other renewable fuels placed on the market for the preceding year.


EU legislation requires the reduction of the sulphur content of fuels to below 10 mg/kg (zero sulphur fuels) by 2009. This Directive 2009/28 requires that by 2020 the EU’s fuel consumption should have a 10 % share of renewables in the transport sector.

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED, 2009/28/EC) set a target for all Member States to reach a 10 % share of renewable energy in transport by 2020.

The White Paper (EC, 2011) provides objectives for decarbonising transport fuels in aviation and shipping, i.e.: “Low carbon sustainable fuels in aviation to reach 40 % by 2050; also by 2050 reduce emissions from maritime bunker fuels by 40 % (if feasible 50 %) compared to 2005 levels.” In both sectors it would be anticipated that the majority of these targets would need to be met through the utilisation of sustainable biofuels.

Related policy documents


Methodology for indicator calculation

The shares of low and zero sulphur petrol and diesel (in percentage) are calculated by dividing the consumption of each fuel (in tonnes) by the total fuel consumption of petrol and diesel respectively.

The share of biofuels (in percentage) is based on their energy content and is thus calculated by dividing its energy consumption (in tonnes of oil equivalent) by total energy consumption including petrol and diesel.

Methodology for gap filling

The final energy consumption time series contains an extrapolation to the latest available year (2010). The primary Eurostat dataset does not extend to 2010, so an extrapolation was made based on Eurostat monthly data on supply and transformation of oil-based products. The following assumptions were used:

  • Maritime bunker final energy consumption was assumed to correlate with internal market deliveries of maritime bunker fuels;
  • Road transport final energy consumption was assumed to correlate with an energy-weighted combination of internal market deliveries of motor gasoline and transport diesel;
  • Aviation final energy consumption was assumed to correlate with internal market deliveries of kerosene – jet fuel.

Using these assumptions, final energy consumption in 2010 was extrapolated by the formula:

[Final energy consumption 2010] = [Final energy consumption 2009] * [Internal market deliveries 2010] / [Internal market deliveries 2009]

For other modes, final energy consumption was assumed to remain a constant in proportion to the sum of the above three modes. It is recognised that this is a very crude assumption, however the remaining modes account for less than 5% of the total final energy consumption in all recent years.

Methodology references


Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

The data are collected on an annual basis by the European Commission and can thus be considered reliable and accurate. The requirement for the data collection for low and zero sulphur fuels and biofuels is mandatory and thus the results are harmonised at the EU level.

Rationale uncertainty


Data sources

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary topic)

csi | transport
DPSIR: Response
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 037
  • TERM 031
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
Filed under: ,
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100