A peek at biofuels’ potential

8 April 2014
Pete Harrison


UPM participated together with a coalition of technology innovators and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to a project, which produced a report entitled Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource.Based on the report Europe has a significant potential for converting wastes to advanced low-carbon biofuels.

We had a chance to sit down for a short Q&A session with Pete Harrison, European Climate Foundation’s Deputy Director of the Transport Programme and Project Coordinator of this new report. 

Who initiated this project that produced “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource” paper?

European Commission came out with a proposal, where they started to suggest having multiple-counting for advanced biofuels. We realised that there were a lot of opinions on what that really meant in terms of sustainability. We wanted to avoid polarisation of the debate over biofuels, because we felt that would be unhelpful in political debate. So, we pulled together NGOs and investors of industry in order to build a common understanding on the potential of advanced biofuels from waste and residues.

How was it to work with various stakeholders?

It’s very cohesive group. They don’t agree with every area, but there’s a lot of common ground essentially around the need for a policy to decarbonise transport fuel. There’s also a need to develop this industry in a sustainable way.

What was UPM’s contribution in this project?

Pete Harrison
Pete Harrison, European Climate Foundation’s Deputy Director of the Transport Programme, was Project Coordinator of “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource” report, which researched potential of advanced biofuels.

We invited UPM mainly for its expertise in forest industries. The rest of the group had a lot of knowledge about agricultural residues, but we had very little knowledge about business and working practices of converting forest residues into biofuels. That’s what UPM was able to help out. Having UPM there with its hands-on experience was very useful.

Are the results of this report in line with past studies?

In terms of the research on greenhouse gas savings we’ve used much more comprehensive approach than what has been used previously. We included e.g. the emissions that come from the usage of fertilisers and displacement effects. And despite our conservative approach we still came up with very high greenhouse gas savings in the range of 60-85 per cent compared to fossil fuels. In terms of availability previous estimates were very high. Many assumed that all of the waste could be used. We estimated that only one quarter of the waste that was potentially available in Europe can actually be used sustainably.

Where do you see the potential in advanced biofuels?

It’s clear that when we look at cars and vans there are many ways to decarbonise them. But there are not that many options beyond efficiency when decarbonising heavy-duty vehicles in the medium term and much less options decarbonising aviation. I think there’s very high potential in the aviation sector.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for advanced biofuels?

Firstly, solid and predictable policy and secondly, financial backing is always a challenge for any industry.

What are the plans now with the report?

We would like to take it on a road show of European capitals and have workshops with stakeholders and governments on those cities.

Text Antti Ylitalo

Photography Miquel Gonzalez

Aki Toivonen

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