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Energy

Voluntary schemes

Voluntary schemes set standards for the production of sustainable biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels.

Voluntary schemes and national certification schemes of EU countries help to ensure that biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels fuels are sustainably produced by verifying that they comply with the EU sustainability criteria.

As such, the schemes check that

  • production of feedstock for these fuels does not take place on land with high biodiversity
  • land with a high amount of carbon has not been converted for such feedstock production
  • biofuel, bioliquid and biomass fuel production leads to sufficient greenhouse gas emissions savings

Several schemes also take into account additional sustainability aspects such as soil, water, air protection and social criteria. For the certification process, an external auditor verifies the whole production chain from the farmer growing the feedstock to the biofuel producer or trader.

While the schemes are run privately, the European Commission can recognise them as valid.

Voluntary schemes under the revised Renewable Energy Directive

The EU sustainability criteria are extended to cover biomass for heating and cooling and power generation in the revised Directive (EU) 2018/2001. EU countries were required to transpose the new rules by 30 June 2021, and the voluntary schemes have to adjust the certification approaches to meet the new requirements. Additional rules are enshrined in the Implementing Regulation on sustainability certification, which is foreseen to be adopted in the second half of 2022, and which envisages a transition period of 18 months from the date of its publication to allow sufficient time for the implementation of the new rules by economic operators, voluntary schemes, certification bodies and the competent authorities in EU countries.

Interested voluntary schemes are invited to apply for recognition by the Commission under the new sustainability framework. More information about the recognition process can be found in the call for interest and the updated assessment protocol.

Recognition criteria

For a scheme to be recognised by the Commission, it must fulfil criteria such as

  • feedstock producers comply with the sustainability criteria of the revised Renewable Energy Directive and its implementing legislation
  • information on the sustainability characteristics can be traced to the origin of the feedstock
  • all information is well documented
  • companies are audited before they start to participate in the scheme and retroactive audits take place regularly
  • the auditors have both the generic and specific auditing skills needed with regards to the scheme's criteria

The decision recognising a voluntary scheme has usually a legal period of validity of 5 years.

Approved voluntary schemes and national certification schemes

The  Commission has so far formally recognised 15 voluntary and national certification schemes

In addition, the Commission has received applications for recognition under the directive from the following voluntary schemes and national certification schemes

ApplicationsEC positive technical assessment
U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol EU (SSAP EU)

                    ✓

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) 
European Renewable Gas Registry (ERGaR) (only for
certification of cross-border trade of biomethane) 

                    

Better Biomass (extension of the scope to also cover forest biomass) 

Green Gold Label (GGL)

 

ISCC (extension of the scope to also cover forest biomass)

 

The draft decisions regarding SSAP EU and KZR INiG (extension of the recognised scope to also cover the sustainability criteria for forest biomass) will be subject to a vote of the RED II Committee on the sustainability of biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels after the internal consultation process of the implementing acts is completed.

The recognition by the Commission is not a pre-requisite for certification. EU countries may accept evidence from voluntary schemes or national certifications schemes set up by EU countries not recognised by the Commission if the competent authorities in those countries are confident about the quality of the certification services provided by these schemes.

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