Advanced bioenergy in Portugal and the role of ABA

March 2022

New year, renewed energy: what has changed for advanced bioenergy?

The advanced bioenergy sector has evolved very successfully in recent years. We observe this evolution in our associates, whose growth has been multifold. Our members grew not only in turnover, but also in the volumes of waste treatment & processing, and production of energy products, both waste biofuels and other advanced or recycled fuels.

In 2021, some important steps have been taken towards establishing advanced bioenergy as a very effective renewable alternative fuel for decarbonisation. This should start with the recognition that advanced biofuels need additional support for their development and are not oil-based, and therefore should not be taxed similar to fossil-based fuels. On the other hand, the creation of a mandatory target of 0.5% for the incorporation of advanced biofuel in Portugal have also renewed hope. Portugal recorded an increased contribution of residual feedstocks to biofuel production in 2021.

Until third quarter of last year, about 70% of the raw materials used in the production of biofuels were of residual origin, of which 10.4% are from advanced biofuels. This increase is very relevant because it means that Portugal is quite aware of the importance of the circular economy and waste recovery. It also means that the refiners are adapting and that it is possible to have more ambitious targets for the incorporation of residual biofuels. We are confident that this figure has room to grow even more during 2022.

Today it is unthinkable to consider the future without thinking of a mixed technology solution approach, in which low-carbon and zero-carbon fuel solutions will help us to not only limit but overturn the negative consequences of climate change. The integration of advanced bioenergy into the energy mix derives from the fact that it would allow us to reach carbon neutrality sooner and go beyond the goals set by the European Union while shortening the path to Portugal's energy dependence.

In recent years, there have been several signals indicating that decision-makers better understand the important role of advanced bioenergy in this transition. During the last year, important steps were taken so that the transposition of the revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), which establishes the targets for the present decade, in all Member States of the European Union. We believe that this legislative update will mark a turning point in the validation of waste and other advanced biofuels as an essential part of Europe's transport decarbonisation strategy.

Thus, what we see for the future is a combination of different mature and novel renewable energy sources. In mobility, we believe that higher biofuel blends will be a reality and a necessity. Not only for their ability to decarbonize mobility, but because they positively contribute to the environment and economy through the promotion of the wider circular economy: job creation growth, increased national RES production, enlarged waste recovery, and valorization. When referring to decarbonising mobility, most believe that it is necessary to change our vehicles and opt for a "zero-emission" one.

However, what we observe all over the world and particularly in the Portuguese market is that this transition is not within everyone's reach and that these alternatives, alone, would not be able to meet the demand, which is increasing as more and more countries evolve and develop their national economies. Therefore, sustainable solutions for combustion engines are fundamental. And this is where we see the relevance of advanced bioenergy. Waste and other advanced biofuels do not require the purchase of new vehicles or infrastructure, as they are incorporated into the fuels we already use. They, therefore, become the most immediate and effective way for mobility to become more sustainable.

By promoting waste and advanced biofuels such as waste-based biodiesel, we make certain that sustainability and decarbonization is accessible to all parts of society and does it not exclude anyone who wants to individually combat climate change mitigation effects. Currently, the installed industry is not yet operating to its full capacity and there is a lot of potential still to promote circularity and to serve the industry and the transport sector.

From our side, throughout the year, we will continue to move towards differentiating advanced bioenergy so that it is included in the economy's decarbonisation plans in a more decisive way. However, above all, what we hope for 2022 is to reach more people, in order to build a society that is well-informed and much aware of waste recovery potential, and the environmental hazards untreated waste can pose, particularly in the case of used cooking oil, which we all have in excess in our homes.

Ana Marisa Calhôa

General Secretary of Associação de Bioenergia Avançada

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