Molasses and EU renewable energy directive

According to the ILUC Directive adopted in 2015 – that will be the EU regulatory framework on biofuels until 2020 – biofuels made from molasses are classified as food-based biofuels.

Until now in 2020, a limit on the use of biofuels made from molasses has been established, given the concerns on the displacement of molasses from food and feed to biofuels.

During the Recast of the Renewable Energy Directive (2016 – 2018), the European Commission proposed to promote the use of molasses in biofuels. According to that proposal, molasses would have had the same status as waste materials such as used cooking oil and its use for biofuels would have been favoured through a specific blending target.This was avoided only thanks to the essential support of the co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Where do we stand now? Unfortunately, and despite the democratic position of the co-legislators not to include molasses back in 2018, it remains a key raw material of interest for the biofuel sector, and is still wrongly subject to being defined as a waste or a residue.

In April 2019, the legally required review of the Annex IX in the Renewable Energy Directive adopted in 2018 was launched. Once again, pressure to promote the use of molasses in biofuels must be counter-balanced with facts:

  • According to the OECD/FAO, the EU already has a structural deficit of molasses for all uses, and needs to import more than 1 million tonnes of molasses each year.
  • Thus, there won’t be enough molasses to cover additional demand for biofuels that would be triggered by the mandatory blending target.
  • For industry sectors such as yeast, there is to date no alternative to molasses. The current pressure coming from the European Commission, biofuels manufacturers and their partners, threatens a broad value chain of industries.

Considering the above, the inclusion of molasses to mandatory blending target in the Renewable Energy Directive is simply not acceptable for the Molasses Alliance. 

While we fully support the objective of increasing the share of biofuels to make our transport more sustainable, this should not be done at the expense of the raw materials widely used in food and animal feed.

Promoting molasses for biofuels through specific targets will:

Run against the food material hierarchy and circular economy principles, according to which high added value uses of raw materials in food and feed should be favoured over bioenergy.
Be in contradiction with the EU objectives to promote advanced biofuels which are not made from food and feed crops. Promoting molasses-based biofuels as an alternative to food-based biofuels is deceiving and will tarnish the credibility of EU policy on biofuels for the coming years.
Hinder the competitiveness of the European food, feed and bio-economy sectors, such as the European yeast and fermentation industry, which heavily relies on molasses for the production of food and feed products. That would result in increased imports of yeast and citric acid from third countries, putting at risk the existence of many jobs in the sector.
Deprive the feed industry of an important feed material which, for its nutritional and anti-pelleting properties, is not easily replaceable.

For this reason, we ask EU policy-makers to keep molasses excluded from the Annex IX of the revised Renewable Energy Directive. We further call on the European Commission to consider the Green Deal and the announced review of the directive, as an opportunity to improve on the sustainability criteria, to make sure food products such as molasses cannot be promoted for use in biofuels.