The UK government has made proposals to introduce a cap on crop-based biofuels in order to meet its renewable fuel obligations.

The maximum level for the use of fuels made from agricultural crops will begin at 4% in 2018 and reduce linearly year on year from 2021 to reach 3% in 2026 and 2% in 2032.

In a statement, the Department for Transport said: “The level is intended to provide a market for domestic producers to utilise installed capacity, to ensure that E10 fuel could be deployed as a cost effective means to meet supplier obligations, and to provide a clear pathway towards higher contributions from waste-derived fuels.”

The news comes as the government published its response to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) consultation.

The RFTO supports the government’s policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by encouraging the production of biofuels that don’t damage the environment.


The RTFO ensures that a percentage of the petrol and diesel used UK vehicles comes from renewable sources, especially waste. The market for renewable fuels, such as bioethanol (blended into petrol) and biodiesel (blended into diesel), has been held at 4.75% since 2012, meaning that over 95% of the transport fuel mix is still fossil-based. The RTFO was designed on its introduction nearly a decade ago to be increased to 10% by 2020. This has led to more than £1bn of investment in domestic manufacturing infrastructure.

With this new proposal, the overall RTFO will be increased to 10% by 2020 and 12.4% by 2032. This new proposal suggests that waste-based fuels will form 10.4% of the share.

E10 boost

In his foreword, Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP said: “Increasing the renewable content of petrol by moving to E10 fuel should make achieving our targets easier and potentially more cost effective, as well as providing an economic boost to domestic producers.

“The government will work with industry to facilitate any future introduction of E10 petrol, playing our part to ensure that is managed carefully and to ensure ongoing availability of fuel suitable for older (pre-2000) petrol vehicles. In doing so, we expect the oil industry to do their part to help minimise any impacts on owners of older vehicles.”

Biofuels made from certain wastes, residues, non-food cellulosic material and lignocellulosic material, will be eligible for  twice the number of Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) than biofuels from crops or other non-waste feedstocks.

The renewable energy industry cautiously welcomed the proposals published by the Department for Transport to increase the amount of renewable fuel in the transport energy mix.

Nina Skorupska CBE, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “The REA is pleased that the amount of renewable fuel will now be increased, which gives biofuels producers, especially those using waste as feedstock a bigger market to go for. However, the decision to decrease the use of sustainable crops in renewable fuel production to 2% raises the question whether fuel suppliers will supply an increasing amount of renewable bioethanol.

“The government’s own Transport Energy Task Force recommended that increasing the amount of renewable bioethanol into petrol to ten per cent would be the most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions from petrol.

“If this fuel is not introduced this would destroy an immediate route to low carbon fuels and improved air quality.

“Our AD biogas producers will also be disappointed that their biomethane, largely derived from food and organic farm waste, will not qualify as a Development Fuel. Renewable gas can play a major role in decarbonising the heavy transport, a major contributor of carbon emissions.”


Looking forward, the government will continue to engage with stakeholders as it takes the legislation through Parliament and finalise guidance on its operation to support its implementation and their preparation for it.

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Biofuels International.

Register now for Biofuels International 2017 for two days of essential learning to network with experts, sharpen your biofuels knowledge and improve your skills, on 4-5 October.