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Indicator Assessment

Uptake of cleaner and alternative fuels (19.2)

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-326-en
Published 13 Apr 2012 Last modified 11 May 2021
10 min read
This page was archived on 09 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)

The share of biofuels in the transport fuel mix increased rapidly since 2000 but still represents only 3.75% of the total. This is far from the EU’s current target 10% target for renewable energy in transport by 2020. Moreover, growth in total fuel use by cars since 2000 at 5% has more than offset gains made through biofuel uptake. The average sulphur content of transport fuels, and in particular diesel, has decreased significantly since 2000.

Developments in uptake of biofuels and low sulphur fuels for transport

Note: Time series of biofuels share in transport energy consumption and the average ppm of sulphur in fuels in the EU27 countries

Data source:

The share of biofuels in the transport fuel mix increased from virtually zero in 1990 to 3.75% of total transport fuel use by 2010. The growth was most rapid during the years 2004 to 2010. Note that since the total consumption of transport fuel has also increased over this period (see Indicator 19.1: SCP027) the growth in uptake of biofuels has been even more rapid. Nevertheless, biofuels overall share in transport fuels remains relatively insignificant at 3.75%, and lower than the growth in total fuel use by cars in Europe since 2000 (5%). In other words, any gains made in GHG emissions by uptake of biofuels have been more than offset by growth in total fuel consumption for mobility. Moreover, the 3.75% share is a good distance from the EU’s current target of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020.

The average sulphur content of transport fuels, and in particular diesel, has decreased significantly since 2000. This is a result of steadily increasing fuel quality standards adopted by the EU. The latest of which is the Euro V standard, which has applied since September 2009 and which Member States should endeavour to have on the market by 1st January 2011, specifying a maximum of 10 ppm of sulphur in diesel and petrol fuel for most road vehicles. Many Member States had already introduced incentives to promote these fuels ahead of the mandatory deadline.

It is also important to note that despite current EU targets and goals for biofuels, the ongoing discourse around the environmental and social impacts of increased production and use of biofuels makes a contextualised assessment of the biofuels part of this indicator difficult.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator shows developments in transport fuel characteristics which can have environmental benefits: the share of biofuels and developments in the average sulphur content of petrol and diesel. 

Units

This indicator is expressed as a percentage of the biofuels share in the final consumption of transport fuel and the average concentration of sulphur in fuels is expressed in parts per million (ppm).


 

Policy context and targets

Context description

This question is grounded in several roadmaps issued by the European Commission. Eco-efficient technologies and innovation for sustainable mobility are key elements of the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050 as mobility is well known as one of the key sectors for reducing GHG emissions and reaching a low carbon economy. The Roadmap identifies the potential for a 60% cut in GHG emissions from transport by 2050.

The white paper Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system also identifies technology as being the key to lower emissions from transport inEurope.

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) addresses mobility directly with the milestone “By 2020 overall efficiency in the transport sector will deliver  greater value with optimal use of resources like raw materials, energy, and land, and reduced impacts on climate change, air pollution, noise, health, accidents, biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. Transport will use less and cleaner energy, better exploit a modern infrastructure and reduce its negative impact on the environment and key natural assets like water, land and ecosystems. There will be on average a 1% yearly reduction, beginning in 2012, in transport GHG emissions.”

The Fuel Quality Directive (98/70/EC) sets EU-wide specifications for petrol, diesel and gas-oil used in cars, trucks and other vehicles - including inland waterway barges, tractor locomotives and machinery - in order to lower their environmental and health impact as well as to take into account new EU-wide targets on biofuels and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Member States are required under the Directive to report annually on the quality of petrol and diesel for the preceding calendar year.

Recent amendments to the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD, Directive 2009/30/EC) have set a requirement for a reduction in the lifecycle GHG emissions from road transport fuels supplied to the EU market. Fuel suppliers must reduce emissions by 6-10 % by 2020 (relative to 2010 fossil fuels). Progress against the FQD target will be evaluated once annual progress reporting begins in 2012.

The Directive 2003/30/EC of May 2003 "on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport" laid the original foundation for the promotion of alternative fuels in the EU. In particular, it specified that Member States should ensure that a minimum share of biofuels and other renewable fuels would be placed on the market, and, to that effect, set national indicative targets.

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 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 everyMemberState 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.

Since 1 January 2005 the limit on the sulphur content of petrol and diesel is 50 ppm and Member States are required to start phasing in ultra-low sulphur fuel with a maximum 10 ppm sulphur content. Such Ultralow Since 1 January 2002 all petrol sold in the EU is unleaded.

However, the question investigates the possibility that gains made through eco-efficient technologies in vehicles can be offset by behavioural trends for example, a growth in person kms travelled by car in Europedue to increasing car ownership and use and a switch to larger cars as the average car becomes more fuel efficient. According to the SOER 2010‘the increase of net income and demographic changes have led to higher rates of car ownership and increased holiday and leisure time for travelling. The bulk of the increase of passenger transport is due to the increased use of the private car, which has almost doubled in Western Europe, and increased over sixfold in Hungary between 1970 and 1990.’ 

This potential for behavioural changes to offset efficiency gains from technology are partially recognised by the Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area which states that‘More resource-efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels are unlikely to achieve on their own the necessary cuts in emissions and they would not solve the problem of congestion. They need to be accompanied by …..greater use of buses and coaches, rail and air transport…..better modal choices will result from greater integration of the modal networks…..Demand management and land-use planning can lower traffic volumes [in urban areas]. Facilitating walking and cycling should become an integral part of urban mobility and infrastructure design.’

Targets

  • The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) includes the milestone that “by 2020 overall efficiency in the transport sector will deliver greater value ….. Transport will use less and cleaner energy, better exploit a modern infrastructure and reduce its negative impact ….. There will be on average a 1% yearly reduction, beginning in 2012 in transport GHG emissions.”
  • Directive 2003/17/EC requires the reduction of the sulphur content of fuels to below 10 mg/kg (zero sulphur fuels) by 2009.
  • 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.
  • COM(2008) 30 final  20 20 by 2020: Europe's climate change opportunity : 10% biofuels target 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

No related policy documents have been specified

 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

In order to calculate the share of biofuels in the final consumption of transport fuel, the EU27 value of the final energy consumption of biofuels is divided by the sum of the EU27 value of the final energy consumption of motor spirits, the EU27 value of the final energy consumption of gas/diesel oil and the EU27 value of the final energy consumption of biofuels. Subsequently the result is multiplied by 100. Those figures are presented along with the average sulphur content (ppm) in fuels in the final graph. 

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling was necessary for producing this indicator.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used by the EEA to process the source data.

Data sets uncertainty

For information on data source uncertainty please see

Rationale uncertainty

The uptake of biofuels, while having a positive effect on fossil-fuel-based carbon emissions, can exert negative influences on land use and food availability depending on the source of the biofuel.

Data sources

  • No datasets have been specified.

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • SCP 028
EEA Contact Info info@eea.europa.eu

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Filed under: transport
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