Exclusive – UK to miss renewable fuel targets

A landmark Government study suggests the UK will miss its renewable transport targets unless there is 'significant investment' in a new generation of biofuels.

The report by the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC) is due to be released tomorrow (November 17).

New technologies, including like gasification and pyrolysis, could allow fuels to be made from a wide range of sustainable materials, including household rubbish.

Until recently these technologies were confined to laboratories but are now beginning show their potential.

NNFCC chief executive, Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, said: “Electric cars offer a sound long-term solution to our renewable road transport needs, but biofuels are currently the best way to decrease our carbon emissions from transport.

“Europe has ambitious carbon targets and this report highlights the necessity for increased investment in advanced biofuels, which could meet almost half of our renewable transport needs by the end of the decade.

By 2020 the UK must produce at least 10% of transport fuel from renewable resources – this is the equivalent of replacing 4.3m tonnes of fossil oil each year.

Most of our renewable fuel currently comes from vegetable oils, however, due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, conventional biofuels are likely to produce just 3.7 to 6.6% of the energy needed by road and rail transport in 2020.

As a result, there is a very real risk that the UK will miss its targets, so we must develop a range of biofuels using sustainable feedstocks, says the report.

Under favourable economic conditions and strong improvements in policy support, projections suggest advanced biofuels could meet up to 4.3% of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020.

This would require around 1m tonnes of woody biomass, 2m tonnes of wheat (to butanol) and 4.4m tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes; saving the UK 3.2m tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent of taking nearly a million cars off the road – and creating 6000 full-time jobs during construction and over 2000 permanent jobs supplying and operating the plants.

Luke Walsh

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