EU policy updates on biogas: what you need to know

A European Green Deal before Christmas

The Commission’s President elect Ursula von der Leyen has finally completed her team of commissioners and everything is ready for the uptake of the mandate on the 1st December. Still before Christmas, we expect to see the first communication on the European Green Deal paving the way towards climate-neutral Europe by 2050. The new Renewable Energy Directive (‘RED II’) will be  revised to be in line with the high climate ambitions of the Green Deal. EBA’s working group on the Future of Gas is currently finalizing EBA’s draft position on the Green Deal highlighting the climate benefits that biogas can bring along in different sectors. EBA warmly welcomes the new Commission’s overarching ambitions working across fields and sectors realizing sector coupling and sector integration models.

Decarbonisation package delayed

The so-called decarbonization package that shall revise the gas market design and enforce renewable gases’ role on the European market has on the other been postponed, likely to 2021. Studies feeding into the package, like the study on ‘Impact of the use of the biomethane and hydrogen potential on trans-European infrastructure’ authored by Trinomics and commissioned by DG ENER back the results presented by Navigant (Gas for Climate: The optimal role for gas in a net-zero emissions energy system), CERRE (Future markets for renewable gases & hydrogen) and others indicating that the potential of biomethane by 2050 is (at least) around 100 bcm. Together with hydrogen, biomethane can thus play an important role in the decarbonised Europe of 2050.

The EU Member States are also finalizing their Energy and Climate Action Plans (NECPs) after receiving feedback from the Commission that under the current draft plans, instead of at least 32% renewables in 2030, the share of renewable energy would reach only 30.4% – 31.9% at Union level. Thus, the Commission has encouraged the Member States to reconsider their level of ambition to ensure that the gap will be closed. The final plans must be submitted by the end of the year.

Transport: Europe needs all alternative fuels including biomethane

Mobility and transport are playing a key role in the European economy and also the Green Deal. The Commission’s transport directorate is already working on a new transport strategy and Director General Henrik Hololei has underlined that electrification is not a silver bullet and that instead, Europe needs all alternative fuels including biomethane. The Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure may be revised and the objectives to introduce a sufficient number of filling stations for alternative fuels like (bio-)CNG and (bio-)LNG may become binding. The facts about bio-CNG’s low GHG emissions and positive climate effects are well known and stated by several recent studies. For example, according to a study by the German and Swiss automobile clubs ADAC and TCS respectively, gas vehicles show the best balance when compared to electric cars run with the current German electricity mix.

New EIB lending policy foresees phase out of natural gas projects

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is revising its lending policy and a deal with the Member States was reached in mid-November deciding to remove financial support for fossil fuels, including natural gas, from 2021. The EIB President Werner Hoyer had announced that the EIB will launch the most ambitious climate investment strategy of any public financial institution anywhere. The upper limit for financing renewable energy projects was increased from 50% to 75%. These new rules shall support also renewable gases and include a transition arrangement for the phase out of natural gas projects.

EU Council confirms support to circular economy for the coming years

In its Conclusions adopted at the Environment Council meeting on 4 October 2019, the Council of the EU confirms its support for the circular economy policy and reiterates that it will remain a priority in the coming years. Therefore, it invited the Commission to present at least two strategies in the coming months. First, a new action plan for the circular economy that identifies targets, tools and indicators for, inter alia, the food sector in a way that it could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of biodiversity and land degradation. Second, a long-term strategic framework – for either 2030 or 2050. The strategic framework should address the issue of bioplastics and biodegradability. It is likely that the strategic framework will form part of the future Zero Pollution strategy of the European Commission.

A system that allows waste to be managed correctly, safely and sustainably, and the full implementation of EU waste acquis are both cornerstones to prevent resources from being lost. The Council invites Member States to fully implement the rules, and to use existing EU funding to increase the capacity of the recycling infrastructure. Moreover, the Commission is invited to present a proposal for the revision of the EU waste shipment regulation that should facilitate the movement of waste destined for recycling in order to incentivize market availability of high-quality, toxic-free products obtained from recovered materials.