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Embracing Renewable Liquid Fuels: A Path towards Sustainable Energy Transition

The crux of the energy transition dialogue has seen a significant shift with the advent of renewable liquid fuels. In a climate of uncertainty and escalating challenges, Eurofuel’s Secretary General, Sandrine Devos, underscores their pivotal role in the energy matrix.

1. Navigating Complex Energy Challenges with Diversity

Europe faces a stiff energy conundrum – the geopolitical landscape has led to severe supply shortages and steep price rises. This situation exacerbates an already difficult post-COVID-19 economic recovery. Compounded by the imperative of achieving significant carbon emission reductions, the task ahead is monumental. Embracing a diverse energy mix, with a focus on renewable liquid fuels, becomes a necessity. This diversity not only ensures a robust supply of energy but also makes it affordable, reliable, and eco-friendly.

2. Learning from Past Policies for a Sustainable Future

Retrospection reveals past energy policies haven’t always served the best interests of European citizens. Policy decisions have driven people to switch from petrol to diesel cars, from coal to oil heating, and now to renewable energy. This transition has often resulted in escalating energy costs and underwhelming environmental results. To circumvent repeating these policy mistakes, it’s essential to prioritize consumer choice and needs. After all, heating isn’t a luxury; it’s an indispensable human need.

3. Renewable Liquid Fuels: A Tailored Solution

While heat pumps and district heating present excellent solutions, their expensive nature and suitability issues limit their universal application. Also, the challenges of fully electrifying buildings and transport add complexity to the situation. Hence, renewable liquid fuels, in combination with other energy forms (hybrid systems), present a viable solution. Particularly in rural areas, liquid fuels have been a popular choice for decades, thereby establishing a groundwork for the transition to their renewable counterparts.

4. Fossil-Free Liquid Fuels: An Accessible Shift

Fossil-free liquid fuels present an easily adoptable solution that’s seamlessly deployable in existing heating systems. Their conversion process is straightforward, making them attractive to consumers. Regardless of their feedstock or manufacturing process, the sustainability of renewable liquid fuels remains non-negotiable. Legislations such as the Renewable Energy Directive are already in place to ensure this prerequisite is met.

5. Strategies for a Sustainable Supply of Renewable Liquid Fuels

Achieving a sustainable supply of renewable liquid fuels involves a dynamic approach that takes into account local conditions. For instance, France has adopted the use of F30 (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester up to 30%), leveraging locally grown rapeseed oil to reduce CO2 emissions. It’s also crucial to secure geopolitical stability in producing countries and make large investments to produce renewable fuels at scale.

6. The Promise of E-Fuels and HVO

Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) are currently available, and their production volumes are gradually increasing. With the right investment and policy support, e-fuels could present a compelling alternative. Their availability is, however, contingent upon the policy framework and pricing structure. The current energy prices indicate a genuine business case for investing in alternative technologies and energies.

7. Tackling Hard-to-Abate Sectors with Renewable Liquid Fuels

Renewable liquid fuels are often prioritized for ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors where electrification is barely viable. In the EU, around 20 million homes rely on liquid fuels for heating, predominantly in rural, off-gas-grid areas. For these homes, electrification is either difficult, costly, or outright impossible. Thus, a policy framework that encourages the use of liquid fuels for decarbonization is vital.

8. Paving the Way for a Renewable Energy Future

For the transition to renewable liquid fuels to be successful, a clear, stable policy framework is a must. Renewable liquid fuels have the potential to decarbonize heating quickly, providing a fair, equitable solution that offers consumers more choices. The primary need of the hour is the acceptance of this transition from decision-makers and the establishment of the right policy framework.

9. Embracing Inclusive Policies for a Sustainable Future

For a comprehensive transition to renewable energy, it is crucial to adopt inclusive energy policies. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) should encompass a technology-open approach, void of technology bans and inclusive of an expanded definition of ‘renewables’. Likewise, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) should fully acknowledge bioliquids. Financial incentives should also be considered in various legislations to facilitate the transition to renewable liquid fuels.

Renewable liquid fuels are integral to a diversified and independent energy mix, which Europe urgently needs. It’s crucial to bear in mind that the term ‘liquid fuels’ is not synonymous with fossil fuels. Instead, it paves the way for a future where renewable energy resources are the norm, not the exception.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa

Author: Memoona Tawfiq