Policy implementation in the United Kingdom

Note: This page is part of the EU biofuel policy tracker, created with content provided by the International Council on Clean Transportation

Implementation of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) in the United Kingdom.

  • Note: Information believed to be current as of 1 October 2011.

Overview of the EU Directives

Overview of the two European Union Directives.
Renewable Energy Directive (RED)

  • The Renewable Energy Directive sets mandates for the use of renewable energy in the European Union. This includes a mandatory target for European Member States that 10% of energy in land transport should be from renewable sources by 2020. This renewable energy could be in any form, such as hydrogen or electricity, but it is widely expected that the bulk of the target will be met by the use of biofuels. The Directive includes sustainability criteria (mirrored in the Fuel Quality Directive) that put a minimum threshold on the direct emissions savings from biofuels based on a lifecycle analysis methodology described in the directive, and define categories of high biodiversity and high carbon land that must not be converted for biofuels production. The Directive puts an obligation on European Member States to enforce both the overall targets and the sustainability conditions, and so the legal requirements on economic operators may vary from Member State to Member State. See Renewable Energy Directive.

Fuel Quality Directive

  • The Fuel Quality Directive includes a mandatory target that the carbon intensity of transport fuel supplied in Europe should be reduced by 6% in 2020 compared to the baseline. It is anticipated that the bulk of this saving will be achieved with biofuels, but electric vehicles and other low carbon vehicle technologies may also be important. There may also be recognition available for reduced emissions intensity from fossil fuel supply, such as by reduced flaring emissions. The 6% target is intended to be achievable by any economic operator supplying all of its mandated 10% renewable energy under the Renewable Energy Directive as biofuel with an average carbon saving of 60%. See Fuel Quality Directive.

United Kingdom Overview

  • The UK has not yet implemented either Directive. The expectation is that the UK will pass legislation in late 2011 to bring the RED and FQD into British law. The expected implementation will be a volume mandate applied to suppliers of fossil fuels. This volume mandate will be met by accumulating and redeeming ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates’ (RTFCs) either through the supply of biofuels to the market, or by trading them from third parties. The award of RTFCs will be dependent on demonstrating that biofuel meets the RED/FQD sustainability criteria. This can be done by providing a limited assurance ISAE 3000 competent auditors opinion.
  • Putting this into law will involve revising the UK’s existing ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation’ to be more consistent with the RED and FQD – in particular, by implementing mandatory sustainability criteria.

Policy name(s)

  • (Revised) Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation – implementing both the transport elements of the RED and the carbon reduction requirements of the FQD. The existing RTFO is described at http://dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/biofuels/ and (for information up to April 2011) http://www.renewablefuelsagency.gov.uk/aboutthertfo. The proposed revisions to the policy are described in consultation documents available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/closed/2011-05/.

Type of policy

  • Volume mandate on biofuels. There is an expectation that a future revision to the RTFO may amend this to an energy mandate, or potentially an emissions reduction target (with certificates proportional to carbon savings rather than volume/energy).

Implementing authority

  • The policy is to be implemented by the UK Department for Transport.

Year introduced

  • The RTFO has been in place in the UK since April 2008. The ‘RED compliant’ RTFO will presumptively come into effect from 15 December 2011.


  • Consultation has ended on new rules, existing system in operation with new ‘RED-compliant’ system expected from 15 December 2011.


  • The existing RTFO sets biofuel supply targets rising to 5% by volume in 2013/14. There are no current plans to amend this rate of increase of supply (under which the target would remain fixed at 5% by volume from April 2013 onwards), but presumptively in due course the legislation will be amended to set a trajectory to comply with the RED/FQD targets by 2020.

Legally obligated parties, opt-in parties and compliance pathways

  • The RTFO requirements currently fall upon any supplier of over 450,000 litres of fossil fuel into the UK market (defined as the party that owns fuel as it crosses the duty point). Compliance with the volume mandate is demonstrated by redeeming Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates at the end of the reporting year (April – April). These parties must comply with the obligation. Any other party supplying biofuel into the UK market is permitted to open an account to receive RTF certificates, but is not obliged to do so. The certificates can be traded on an online platform administered by the UK Department for Transport.
  • There is an additional compliance pathway, which is to ‘buy-out’ of an obligation for a set buy-out price (currently 30p per litre of obligation not met with certificates).
  • Under the revised legislation, any party supplying fuel of any sort in the United Kingdom will be legally obliged to register with the DfT. The DfT is also considering changes to the minimum threshold for the amount of fossil fuel supplied before a company is legally obliged to meet a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. To receive a Renewable Transport Fuel Certificate under the new legislation, a supplier would first have to provide a verifiers’ opinion that the fuel met the RED/FQD sustainability criteria.


Greenhouse gas emissions

  • The current RTFO requires reporting on the carbon intensity of biofuel, using the RED carbon calculation methodology as interpreted by the Department for Transport. The revised RTFO proposes to introduce the minimum carbon saving thresholds detailed in the RED/FQD. As detailed in the RED, suppliers would be able to use a default carbon reporting value from the legislation or else to report an amended value based on using additional data.

Life-cycle analysis (LCA)

  • The LCA will be based on the RED/FQD LCA system, as described by the Biograce website.

GHG emissions from ILUC

  • There is no proposal to include such emissions at this time.


  • Biofuel carbon emissions will be grandfathered in line with the grandfathering in the RED/FQD.

Mandatory environmental criteria on land types

  • The proposed legislation will make mandatory the RED/FQD criteria on areas in which biofuel may not be produced. This will exclude the issue of highly biodiverse grassland, on the basis that the European Commission has not yet set criteria to define highly biodiverse grassland. As with the carbon emissions, this information will need to be verified with a limited assurance verifiers’ opinion before any certificates will be awarded.

Additional environmental and social reporting requirements

  • The proposed approach to reporting on additional environmental issues (soil, water and air protection; restoration of degraded land; avoidance of excessive water consumption in areas of water scarcity) and social issues as defined in the RED/FQD is based on European Commission Decision 2011/13/EU. Reporting will thus be based on reporting (where such schemes have been used) on the certification of biofuels under voluntary schemes. This means that where a biofuel has not been certified against a scheme, there would effectively be no reporting under the additional reporting criteria. It is proposed that reporting this information is not required before a supplier in the UK can be awarded RTFCs, but that there would be civil penalties for failure to submit a verified report on these issues each August.

System for verifying carbon and sustainability claims

  • Provision of a limited assurance opinion by an ISAE 3000 competent verifier.

Reporting system

  • The UK has an online reporting system ‘ROS’

Double reward for cellulosic biofuels, use of wastes and residues

  • Fuels eligible for double reward under the RED/FQD to be eligible for two certificates per litre, rather than one. This classification to be subject to verification by the same standard as other sustainability claims.

Eligible feedstocks

  • The RTFO currently has a list of eligible fuels, and defines what constitutes biofuel (this is essentially feedstock neutral. It is proposed that in future the renewable part of any liquid transport fuel except hydrogen be eligible for RTFCs. There would be no restrictions on feedstocks. There will be no inclusion of hydrogen and electricity at this time, although this would be subject to review, largely dependent on further input from the Commission on how to account for such fuels. For partially renewable fuels, a fraction proportionate to the fraction of the fuel coming from renewable feedstocks would be eligible for RTFCs.

Credit trading

  • Certificates are and are expected to remain tradable via the DfT’s ‘ROS’ system.

Aviation and shipping

  • Biofuels used in aviation and shipping are not currently eligible, nor is there any proposal to make them eligible.

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