What can ethanol contribute to Ireland’s climate obligations?

In 2009, the EU adopted the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) which for the first time mandated that 10% of the transport energy used by member states must come from renewables by 2020. The revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED 11) sets a target of 14% by 2030 and it appears that ethanol has a major role to play in all of this.

Meanwhile, the Government has committed to a transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. In the transport sector it has placed a general obligation on fuel suppliers in the country to use a certain percentage of biofuels, but suppliers are free to decide the precise type and mix of biofuel to use.

These were the sentiments expressed by Jim Power during the launch of his new report: ‘The Role of Ethanol in Ireland’s Climate Action Programme’ – which was commissioned by Ethanol Europe – last week.

The company is currently focused on an awareness campaign that seeks to highlight the utilisation of ethanol production as a climate solution.

‘Change and obligations’

Power, meanwhile, said that Ireland’s international climate obligations were clear – reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% relative to 2005 levels for areas outside of electricity and to achieve a 16% renewable energy share of gross energy consumption by 2020.

The current biofuel obligations are 10% and up to 11% by 2020 – this obligation is currently being met by using up to 5% ethanol in petrol and up to 7% biodiesel in diesel.

“In practice, the 10% obligation is being met due to the fact that biodiesel from used cooking oil and tallow is counted twice under the terms of the EU Renewable Energy Directive – even though in reality that second litre is just normal diesel,” he continued.

“As a consequence the progress being made in real terms is less than would appear on the official reports; renewable ethanol energy is counted once and so represents a more transparent and true form of progress.”

‘Transport and emissions’

Meanwhile, Power went on to point out that in Europe transport accounts for about a quarter of EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while road transport makes up more than 70% of that amount.

Sustainable biofuels such as ethanol produced from grain or beet appear to be among the best near-term solutions for reducing emissions and moving towards its climate change targets.

He continued: “Ethanol is a clean, high-performance renewable fuel that works in most modern cars and certain trucks. Its use boosts engine efficiency, helps reduce harmful emissions and helps the fight against climate change.

“E10 is a petrol grade containing up to 10% ethanol by volume. Since 2016, E10 has been the European test fuel for type-approval fuel consumption and emissions testing.

“In Europe as a whole, the average ethanol blend level is 5% with some fleets using 85% or higher – particularly in Sweden and France where E10 is the major petrol sold. In the US, all petrol has 10% or more ethanol in it. ”

The Irish perspective

Power went on to say that from an Irish perspective the country currently has 5% ethanol in its petrol – which was introduced without any adverse effects in 2005.

He added: “It would make sense for Ireland to move to E10 for a number of reasons including climate change and the fact that transport is the biggest emitter of fossil carbon.

E10 would help Ireland move towards its RES-T targets and avoid fines or financial commitments.

“It would also reduce the dependence on imported energy and reduce the energy import bill.

“It would also provide an alternative activity and source of income for Irish farmers, would result in the creation of employment and boost economic growth.”