North West Biofuels Network

Discusses renewable and low carbon fuels and it's use in transport.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Norman Baker

North West Biofuels Network

Hello, I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person today (21 September 2012)… but, courtesy of video technology, I’m pleased that I can at least make a small contribution to the proceedings.

At the end of last year I explained why I believe we will only be successful in our transport strategy – of creating growth and cutting carbon – if we effect behavioural change and provide genuinely sustainable transport. I also spoke about the role of biofuels within our strategy.

We have made some significant progress since then, both in terms of assuring the sustainability of biofuels used in the UK and in respect of investment and growth.

Building on voluntary reporting under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) we took an important step last December with the introduction of mandatory sustainability criteria.

Earlier this year the first biofuels meeting that criteria were reported. This was only achieved by working closely with suppliers, and the RTFO Administrator continues to ensure suppliers get the advice they need.

UK-produced biofuels have shown some potentially high carbon savings compared with fossil fuels.

Provisional data reported for UK feedstocks under the RTFO suggests greenhouse gas savings from biofuel made from UK feedstocks was 77%.

The volume of UK produced biofuel has also increased in the first three years of the RTFO – from 109 to 331 million litres per year.

As assurance of the carbon reduction credentials of biofuels has improved, so we have also witnessed examples of growth in the UK.

I was very pleased to be asked to open the impressive Agri Energy biodiesel plant in Bootle in Liverpool in May – and I understand that you will be hearing more about this project today.

It is imperative that we keep seeing profitable investments like this which produce low carbon energy. In the UK, enterprise like this can create jobs and develop expertise in the biofuels industry and help us to meet our ambitious carbon reduction targets.

I was similarly encouraged by Vivergo’s investment in Hull and its ambition to become the largest bioethanol and animal feed producer in Europe. It is another significant investment in the UK’s future and energy infrastructure and an example of British ingenuity and co-operation.

So I’m seeing some really encouraging signs out there…..green UK businesses are showing how partnerships between companies – and the sharing of knowledge and expertise across different industries – can provide models with the potential to deliver genuinely sustainable product and minimise waste.

I am proud of the UK’s progress. I also recognise that the role of government is to sustain a fertile investment climate. So my aim is to provide a clear policy framework. One based on good scientific evidence and which provides assurance of the sustainability of biofuels.

We are clear that biofuels have a role to play in tackling climate change, particularly where we cannot otherwise easily decarbonise, such as in aviation and HGVs. However, the coalition government is adamant that wherever they are used, biofuels must be genuinely sustainable. We remain very concerned that studies and impact assessments have demonstrated that some biofuels actually produce greater carbon emissions than fossil fuels, particularly when indirect land use change is factored in.

We continue to press the European Commission for clarity on indirect land use change policy and I have written to EU commissioners to press the UK’s position more than once.

But let me be candid about this – I do not believe that setting further short-term interim targets can in practice provide the clarity industry needs while the issue of indirect land use change remains to be properly tackled by the European Commission.

I believe we should firmly entrench the goalposts as soon as we can, but only when we are confident that we do not have to move them again.

In April, the Bioenergy Strategy, a cross-Whitehall strategy was released.

This recognises the importance of low ILUC-risk first generation biofuels.

It also acknowledges that, in the medium-to-longer term, we will need to develop second generation and other advanced biofuels.

We will continue to review how best to support this growing industry and meet our greenhouse gas emission and energy targets.

To incentivise advanced biofuels and waste derived biofuels, we have introduced double rewards under the RTFO.

This is because these feedstocks are unlikely to compete with food production or contribute to indirect land use change.

I accept that there are concerns regarding the fluctuation of the value of RTFCs. This year is unique because of amendments to the RTFO in December. So it’s probably too soon to tell whether the recent RTFC prices reflect a longer term trend.

We will continue to consider the impacts of double certification, and I have committed to review double certification in 2013 to ensure that it is having a positive effect on the biofuel industry.

We are interested in the potential to use biofuels in sectors where options to decarbonise are limited.

For example the potential use of sustainable biomethane made from waste in the heavy goods vehicle sector.

There are real market barriers to uptake of low emission heavy goods vehicle technologies such as hybrid, electric and gas.

The government has made available £9.5 million capital funding to pump prime procurement – via the low carbon truck demonstration trial, launched in March.

Successful applicants will get targeted funding for refuelling infrastructure, and for low carbon vehicles like gas and dual fuel trucks.

Biofuels are of course just one part of a wider strategy to encourage growth and cut carbon.

We are committed to supporting the uptake of ultra low carbon vehicles in the United Kingdom.

The government has made provision of over £400 million to support the development of the ultra low emission vehicle market work to 2015. This includes funding;

  • for recharging infrastructure schemes,
  • to promote the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles through the plug-in car and van grants and
  • £82 million of support for research and development

In addition UKH2Mobility was launched in January. This joint undertaking with key industry stakeholders will evaluate the potential for hydrogen as a fuel for ultra low carbon vehicles in the UK.

We are also backing a revolution in bus travel with a multi-million pound green bus fund – a scheme that has helped to deliver more than 500 low carbon buses on routes across England. And, notably, much of this work has been done by UK companies.

To conclude… generating economic growth and cutting carbon emissions are not mutually exclusive – they are two sides of the same coin.

This is particularly true of the biofuels industry which has become an important part of the UK economy, of our national infrastructure and our efforts to meet international emission and energy targets.

To get the best result for the consumer, the environment and the taxpayer we will continue to work closely with industry in addressing barriers to supplying sustainable biofuel in the transport sector. This is why networks such as yours are so important in providing a forum to develop and share knowledge.

We will also continue to ensure that the full consequences of growing biofuels are considered and assessed. This is essential if government is to provide a clear policy framework which encourages growth.

I know that, at the EU level there is work to do on issues such as ILUC. But I am confident that, together, we have made some significant progress towards assuring that biofuels used in the UK are sustainable.

It just remains to thank you for listening and wish you a productive and enjoyable day

Published 21 September 2012