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Commission approves one-year prolongation of tax exemption for biofuels in Sweden

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of the tax exemption measure for biofuels in Sweden. Sweden has exempted liquid biofuels from energy and CO₂ taxation since 2002. The measure has already been prolonged several times, the last time in October 2020 (SA.55695). By today's decision, the Commission approves an additional one-year prolongation of the tax exemption (from 1 January to 31 December 2022). The objective of the tax exemption measure is to increase the use of biofuels and to reduce the use of fossil fuels in transport. The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular the Guidelines on State Aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the tax exemptions are necessary and appropriate for stimulating the production and consumption of domestic and imported biofuels, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. In addition, the scheme will contribute to the efforts of both Sweden and the EU as a whole to deliver on the Paris agreement and move towards the 2030 renewables and CO₂ targets. The support to food-based biofuels should remain limited, in line with the thresholds imposed by the revised Renewable Energy Directive. Furthermore, the exemption can only be granted when operators demonstrate compliance with sustainability criteria, which will be transposed by Sweden as required by the revised Renewable Energy Directive. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.63198.

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BIOSWITCH research analyzes Irish and Dutch consumer perspectives of bio-based products

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BIOSWITCH, a European project that seeks to raise awareness among brand owners and to encourage them to use bio-based instead of fossil-based ingredients in their products, has carried out research to understand consumer behaviour and perspectives of bio-based products. The study consisted of a quantitative survey among 18-75-year-old consumers in Ireland and the Netherlands to gain an understanding of consumer perspectives in relation to bio-based products. All the results were analysed, compared, and compiled in a peer-reviewed paper that can be consulted in this link.

“Having a better understanding of consumers perception of bio-based products is crucial to help to boost the transformation from a fossil-based to a bio-based industry, support Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy and help to meet key sustainability targets,” said James Gaffey, co-director of the Circular Bioeconomy Research Group at Munster Technological University. Some of the main findings in the study indicate that consumers in both countries have a relatively positive outlook regarding bio-based products, with Irish consumers, and especially Irish females, showing a slightly more positive position.

Moreover, Irish consumers also have a slightly more positive perception that their consumer choice can be beneficial for the environment, and overall, are more willing to pay extra for bio-based products. Price was indicated by consumers in both countries as a key factor influencing the purchase of bio-based products, and around half of the interviewees are unwilling to pay more for bio-based products. Likewise, consumers in both countries are most likely to buy bio-based products from the same product categories, the main ones being packaging products, disposable products, and cleaning, hygiene, and sanitary products.

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A green premium is most likely to be paid for categories such as disposable products, cosmetics and personal care. Consumers in both countries appointed at environmental sustainability as a significant factor when choosing between products; however, terms such as biodegradable and compostable carry more weight than the term bio-based among consumers, indicating that more work needs to be done to improve consumer knowledge and understanding of bio-based products. Despite this, the overall indication of consumer preference for bio-based over fossil-based products was clear, as 93% of the Irish respondents and 81% of the Dutch ones said that they would prefer buying bio-based products
This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 887727. rather than fossil-based products. Nearly half of them were even willing to pay a bit more for the bio-based alternatives.

“It was great to notice positive attitudes among consumers towards bio-based products,” said John Vos, senior consultant and European projects manager at BTG Biomass Technology Group. “We hope that the results of this study will serve as basis for further exploration of this topic and will stimulate the market for bio-based products by addressing uncertainties around consumer demand in Ireland and the Netherlands.”

About BIOSWITCH

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BIOSWITCH is an initiative funded by the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme with a total budget of €1 million. The project is coordinated by the Finnish entity CLIC Innovation and formed by a multi-disciplinary consortium of eight partners from six different countries. The partners’ profiles include four industrial clusters: CLIC Innovation, Corporación Tecnológica de Andalucía, Flanders’ FOOD and Food & Bio Cluster Denmark; two Research and Technological Organizations: Munster Technological Institute and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland; and two SMEs: BTG Biomass Technology Group and Sustainable Innovations.

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Biodiversity

Europe's time: How not to waste it?

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It is a historic moment for Europe. That is how the European Commission entitled the list of proposed measures to restore the economy of the European Union estimated at a record amount of 750 billion euros, with 500 billion being allocated free of charge as grants and another 250 billion – as loans. The EU member states should approve the plan of the European Commission in order to «contribute to a better future for a new generation».

According to the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, «Efficient approval of the plan will be a clear sign of European unity, our solidarity and common priorities». A significant part of the recovery measures is aimed at implementing the «Green Deal», a phased transition to climate neutrality of the EU countries. About 20 billion euros will be allocated to co-finance the existing InvestEU program aimed at supporting the development of sustainable energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage projects.

One of the most promising projects in this field is currently being implemented in the Netherlands in the Rhine–Meuse delta, which is of crucial importance for European and international shipping. The Smart Delta Resources Consortium has launched a campaign to assess all aspects of the carbon capture and storage systems construction for their subsequent reuse. It is planned that the consortium will be capturing 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year starting from 2023 with a subsequent increase to 6.5 million tons in 2030, which will reduce the total share of emissions in the region by 30%.

One of the consortium members is the Zeeland refinery (a joint venture of TOTAL and LUKOIL that works with Europe's largest integrated refinery Total Antwerp Refinery). This Dutch plant is one of the industry leaders in climate neutrality. Digital optimization system for the processing of middle distillates (which includes marine fuel that complies with the strict requirements of IMO 2020 that have recently entered into force), as well as the recently upgraded and one of the largest hydrocracking facilities in Europe are installed at the plant.

According to Leonid Fedun, Vice President for Strategic Development of LUKOIL, the company is European and, consequently, feels an obligation to comply with current trends, including climate trends that define the market today.

At the same time, according to Fedun, climate neutrality in Europe will be achieved only by 2065, and in order to achieve it the global harmonization of regulatory approaches of all parties to the Paris Agreement is important.

The measures proposed by the European Commission to support the economies of member states may become a significant step along this path, as its first stage will be the development and internal coordination of each member state reorganization plans in the energy sector and in the economy field.

Using existing breakthrough projects in the field of climate neutrality as the best industry practices for the entire region may help shorten the time needed to implement support measures as well as become an instrument for a dialogue within supranational organizations and international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

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Biofuels

Commission imposes countervailing duties on #IndonesianBiodiesel

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The European Commission has imposed countervailing duties of 8% to 18% on imports of subsidized biodiesel from Indonesia. The measure aims to restore a level-playing field for EU biodiesel producers. The Commission's in-depth investigation found that Indonesian biodiesel producers benefit from grants, tax benefits and access to raw materials below market prices.

This inflicts a threat of economic damage to EU producers. The new import duties are imposed on a provisional basis and the investigation will continue with a possibility to impose definitive measures by mid-December 2019. While the predominant raw material for biodiesel production in Indonesia is palm oil, the focus of the investigation is on the possible subsidization of biodiesel production, irrespective of the raw material used. The EU biodiesel market is worth an estimated €9 billion a year, with imports from Indonesia of reaching some €400 million.

For more information, see the regulation published in the EU Official Journal and a page dedicated to the case.

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