International Energy Agency will assess Brazil’s policies to promote biofuels
December 23, 2020
By Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP – Biofuels play a fundamental role in decarbonizing the transportation sector. Current policies to grow biofuel production and use on a global scale, however, are not sufficiently ambitious, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
To address this problem, the IEA will assess the effectiveness of the policies implemented by leading producers of low-carbon fuels for transportation such as Brazil in order to help them identify bottlenecks, recommend solutions, and share best practices so as to move the bioenergy agenda forward.
The initiative was presented by IEA representatives during the Fourth Brazilian Bioenergy Science and Technology Conference (BBEST), held online between November 30 and December 2.
The event was part of the activities of the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN) and was held in parallel with the second edition of the Biofuture Summit, an initiative of the Biofuture Platform, a consortium of 20 countries including Brazil that works to promote international coordination on the bioeconomy and low-carbon transportation solutions.
“We’re confident that by sharing best practices evaluated with rigorous methodologies, more countries will be able to adopt effective policies to implement bioenergy sustainably, create jobs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, so as to achieve global energy and climate goals,” said Fatih Birol, IEA’s Executive Director, opening the event.
The biofuel policy assessment will initially cover five countries. Policies implemented by Brazil, the United States and the Netherlands are currently being analyzed.
“We set out to characterize the bioenergy sector in these countries, which display differences in terms of market maturity and access to technology, for example, and to describe and analyze their bioenergy policies,” said Paolo Frankl, Head of the IEA’s Renewable Energy Division. “The study will result in the production of indicators of the evolution of biofuel production and use in these countries, and in an analysis of their bioenergy policy portfolios.”
The shares of bioenergy and low-carbon fuels in the total energy consumption of each country’s transportation sector will be among the metrics used to construct the indicators.
The IEA will also analyze biofuel growth rates in each country, alignment with the Agency’s sustainable development scenarios for bioenergy, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by biofuel use.
It will assess the policies implemented by the countries concerned in terms of six criteria: the priority given to bioenergy in energy planning; policy security and clarity; market access; financial support; governance; and incentives to innovate in the sector.
“Our main premise is that policies need to be adapted to the specific context of each country and that there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, a single solution valid for all countries. Different policies can achieve similarly effective results,” Frankl said.
With regard to policies designed to assure market access for bioenergy, Brazil, for example, has established a 27% mandatory ethanol blend in gasoline. The Netherlands has followed a similar path by requiring a blend of ethanol and biodiesel.
“We’ve discussed how to implement a number of policies that aim to foster biofuel use in air and sea transportation,” said Kees Kwant, Senior Expert on Bioenergy at RVO, an agency of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.
The economic mechanisms used by the Netherlands and Brazil to boost biofuel production and use are also similar inasmuch as they involve the issuance of decarbonization certificates by ethanol and biodiesel producers for purchase by companies that sell petroleum products, in quantities equivalent to sales volume.
In Brazil, distributors already hold some 60% of the decarbonization certificates issued by the Renovabio program to achieve the marketing target set for this year, corresponding to more than 20 million Biofuel Based Decarbonization Credits (CBios), said Danielle Machado e Silva Conde, Deputy Superintendent for Biofuels and Product Quality at ANP, Brazil’s petroleum industry regulator.
“Over 200 bioenergy producers have been certified to date, and more than 15 million CBios – equivalent to 15 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided – have been registered this year,” said Bento Albuquerque, Brazil’s Minister of Mining and Energy.
According to the IEA, biofuels currently account for 50% of world bioenergy consumption. Their production and consumption are rising, but much less than necessary to achieve the energy sector’s sustainable development goals. Moreover, they have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, which has led to a 12% drop in biofuel production, the first downturn after two decades of growth (read more at: agencia.fapesp.br/34569).
To reverse this decline in biofuel production and promote a resumption of growth, the Biofuture Platform is appealing to countries to adopt its Five Principles for Post-COVID Bioeconomy Recovery and Acceleration.
One principle is “Do not backtrack”, so as to assure continuity of the bioenergy projects, policy mechanisms, and goals established before the pandemic. Another is “Reassess fossil fuel subsidies”.
“The Biofuture Platform has been key to filling a gap in the global environmental and energy debate, in which the role and necessity of sustainable bioenergy have been mostly ignored. Since the launch of the Platform, the member countries have announced and executed important new policies and programs for bioenergy, biofuels, and the bioeconomy,” said Ernesto Araújo, Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Brazil is in the forefront of the development of the bioeconomy and can lead the global response to the crisis, fomenting international partnerships on key topics such as responsible land use and harvesting technology. This was one of the points highlighted by the event, which had 450 registered participants from 34 countries.
“Brazil is a bioenergy benchmark thanks to its highly renewable energy mix, which owes a great deal to the success of its biofuel industry. One of the drivers of this success is its robust research community, which has helped surmount several scientific and technological challenges in the area,” said Glaucia Mendes Souza, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Chemistry (IQ-USP) and a member of BIOEN’s steering committee.
FAPESP President Marco Antônio Zago stressed that BIOEN, which aims to advance basic and applied knowledge in areas relating to bioenergy, is part of FAPESP’s mission to support research that contributes to the development of the state of São Paulo.
“BIOEN has been a resounding success. Since the program’s inception, one of the concerns of its researchers has been the protection of the environment by promoting a reduction in water consumption by the sugar and energy industry, for example,” Zago said.
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