RPA welcomes transport fuel obligation

The Renewable Power Association has welcomed the government’s announcement today (10 November) to adopt a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (ReTFO) from 2008.

The obligation will require fuel companies to supply a minimum of 5% by volume of renewable fuel blended into conventional forecourt supplies by 2010.

Renewable fuels include biodiesel and bioethanol which can be made from waste cooking oils and crops such as wheat, sugar beet and oilseed rape. 

“This is a big step forward in the UK’s efforts to combat climate change,” RPA head of biofuels Clare Wenner said. But she said the 5% figure falls short of the European target of 8% by volume, the equivalent of 5.75% by energy.

“It is disappointing the government hasn’t given us anything very aspirational, still we are confident the figure will increase over time so that motorists can do more to save carbon in the future.”

The government has played safe because of vehicle warranty limitations, she said. “Car warranties are guaranteed up to 5% blend by volume. Beyond that, the warranty doesn’t hold. And fuel standards at the moment only go up to 5%.”

A key part of the obligation will be how it works, and the government has said it will consult with stakeholders to establish the way forward.

“There are two aspects,” Mrs Wenner said. “One is the mechanism itself i.e. buyer price, the period for the obligation and penalties. The other is sustainability assurance.”

International trade rules make it hard for the government to adopt an assurance standard that can be applied universally, she explained, which is why it has opted for mandatory reporting of carbon saved through voluntary assurance.

“There have been many people who have said we must award ReTFO certificates linked to the amount of carbon saved, but for the time being this is likely to be a step too far for the government. The government feels there needs to be more work on sustainability assurance for domestic and imported supplies. Unless you can get an agreed way of calculating those carbon savings, it’s not possible to ‘hard wire’ certificates to the amount of carbon saved.”

In the past year, biofuels lobby groups have expressed concerns that the adoption of a ReTFO could open the floodgates to rogue imports rather than promote the use of carbon-certified indigenous supplies, unless a rigorous assurance scheme is put in place.