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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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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 the EU on track towards the promotion of cleaner and alternative fuels?

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

The ratio determining a Members State’s share of renewable energy in transport consumption (RES-T) is defined in Article 3 (4) of the RES Directive.

The denominator of the ratio, i.e. the total amount of energy consumed in transport, is calculated using only petrol, diesel, biofuels consumed in road and rail transport, and electricity.

For numerator of the ratio, i.e. the amount of energy from renewable sources consumed in transport, con0siders all types of energy from renewable sources consumed in all forms of transport.

To calculate the numerator and denominator of the RES-T share, the contribution of electricity produced from renewable sources and consumed in all types of electric vehicles is used. Member States may choose to use either the average share of electricity from renewable 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 electricity input from renewable sources.


Final energy consumption of biofuels, petrol and diesel, and electricity for transport are measured in kilotonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). The decision to use ktoe as the main calculation unit was made due to the choice of reporting units in the Template for Member State progress reports under Directive 2009/28/EC.

Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009, Directive 2009/30/EC was adopted, revising 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. 

The EU Biofuels Directive has created a legislative framework in Member States and has therefore triggered rapid market implementation of biofuels. In 2010, the share of biofuels in the EU-28 was 4.8 % of all petrol and diesel sold for transport purposes, still somewhat below the original policy objective under Directive 2003/30/EC to reach 5.75 % by the end of 2010. These targets were subsequently revised following the adoption of Directive 2009/28/EC, subsequently amended in 2013 and again in 2015, on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (repealing two previous Directives). The revision sees the share of renewable energy use to be used in transport rising to a minimum 10 % in every Member State by 2020. The new directive on renewable energy also aims to ensure that only sustainable biofuels that generate a clear and net greenhouse gas saving and have no negative impact on biodiversity and land use are used in the EU. Only biofuels complying with the sustainability criteria under the Renewable Energy Directive are to be counted towards this target and, therefore, proper monitoring is only possible from 2010. In addition, to stimulate the growth of certain shares of renewable energy sources in transport, renewable electricity in electric road vehicles accounts for 2.5 times the energy content of the electricity input from renewable energy sources. Similarly, the contribution of biofuels produced from wastes, residues, non-food cellulosic material, and ligno-cellulosic material is considered to be twice that of other biofuels. Nevertheless, the 10 % target is expected to be met primarily through biofuels.

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.


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: “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 is anticipated that the majority of these targets would need to be met through the utilisation of sustainable biofuels.

Related policy documents

  • DIRECTIVE 2001/77/EC Renewable electricity
    Directive 2001/77/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2001 on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market
  • Directive 2003/30/EC, use of biofuels and renewable fuels
    Promotion of the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport. Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 May 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels for transport.
  • DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
  • Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 on energy statistics
    Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on energy statistics (OJ 2008 L 304, p. 1).


Methodology for indicator calculation

The share of renewable energy sources in transport is calculated by dividing renewable energy consumption by total energy consumption, including petrol and diesel.

The ratio determining a Member State’s RES-T share is defined in Article 3 (4) of the RES Directive, where, for the calculation of the denominator, the consumption of petrol for transport, diesel for transport, biofuels used in road and rail transport and electricity used in any mode of transport are taken into account. For the numerator, compliant biofuels (liquid and gaseous) used in all modes of transport, and employing the respective multipliers where applicable 2x renewable electricity in transport and 2.5x for road transport as defined in Article 21(2)), plus hydrogen of renewable origin in all modes of transport and other forms of renewable energy consumed in the transport sector are also taken into account.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap-filling is applied. 

Methodology references

  • SHARES Tool Manual Shares Tool Manual: Describes the Shares Tool that is designed to collect and present the information – the energy data – that are needed for the calculations as defined in Article 3 (transport sector) and Article 5 (overall target) of the Directive. 


Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

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

Diana Vedlugaite

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