On February 25, Novozymes co-organized with Anders Fogh Rasmussen a conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on “Improving EU Energy Security with Advanced Biofuels”. One week after the European Commission presented its energy security package focused on Europe’s gas dependence, it was high time to explore future solutions to Europe’s addiction to oil. Conventional ethanol already plays a key role in increasing energy security—having replaced 5% of transport fuels in Europe, 10% in the US and 27% in Brazil.

No silver bullet to address the transport challenges

Maroš Šefčovič, Europe Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, reminded the audience about the situation of the transport sector in Europe, which is responsible for one-third of Europe’s energy consumption and a fourth of its total greenhouse gas emissions. He also stressed that our transport sector relies almost entirely on imported oil, meaning Europe is also highly sensitive to fluctuations in the oil market

While acknowledging the scale of the challenge, he recognized that currently no silver bullet or single fuel solution can provide our entire needs and that all main alternative fuel options must be pursued. He therefore welcomed the usefulness of discussing the contribution of advanced biofuels to reach the Energy Union objectives in terms of security of supply and decarbonization of transport.

He concluded, insisting on the utmost importance of bringing the industry and EU decision makers around the same table to see how we can provide a stable regulatory environment in order for the industry to invent, to innovate and to imagine.

Homegrown Energy Security in Europe is possible!

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO and Founder and Chairman of Rasmussen Global, explained that the high dependence on oil imports – 90% today – is EU’s Achilles’ heel.

First because it costs money: In 2014, EU member states spent more than €270 billion on foreign crude oil – more than the combined GDP of Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Second, because half of this money goes to unstable, authoritarian regimes.

Rasmussen explained that this situation has a serious impact on EU ability to provide effective, coordinated responses to threats and provocations at international level. As a case in point, he stressed the EU’s struggle to devise coherent political and economic strategies to confront the challenges posed by Russian aggression in Ukraine and the inferno in the Middle East.

He urged the EU to change course and increase its production of alternative energy – including biofuels: Biofuel technology replaces imported oil with homegrown energy and as such it is one of the most important and far-reaching legacies today’s Europeans could leave to the Europe of tomorrow, he concluded.

Biofuels are part of the solution to address transport challenges

Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, acknowledged that the transition from an oil-based to a bio-based society is a difficult one as it implies catching up with more than a hundred years of innovation and infrastructure development of the oil based model.

While there are multiple technologies that can contribute to a gradual decarbonization of transport, he stressed the role played by conventional biofuels today which already make a positive contribution. He further highlighted that advanced biofuels are becoming commercially ready with 6 commercial-scale plants converting agricultural residues into advanced bio-ethanol in operation globally today based on more than €2 billion CAPEX in the ground.

While praising the EU support for innovation, he explained why this is not sufficient on its own to create a market and allow the sector to compete with incumbents. He called specifically for a blending mandate for advanced biofuels by 2030, acknowledging that this requires political courage but that it will pay off thanks to the benefits biofuels will bring about in terms of jobs and growth, climate mitigation, energy security and rural development.

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Nour Amrani

Senior Manager Public Affairs at Novozymes
I am in charge of EU affairs for Novozymes in Brussels, passionate about energy and climate politics.

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