Traceability and transparency of biofuels markets to reach new heights in 2023
EWABA is very excited to welcome the newly established Union Database for Biofuels (“UDB”) open for economic operators’ registration since mid-January.
In a year of major regulatory developments with the expected conclusion of important legislative procedures within the fit for 55 package, the introduction of the UDB as a key part of the regulatory framework underpinned by the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) will bring a revolutionary positive change to the sector. With significant industry involvement, the UDB is set to quickly become the driving force behind tightened traceability and transparency of global biofuel supply chains.
The Database in brief
The UDB is a digital tool that will support the work of all interested parties within the biofuels supply chain. By tracking all feedstocks from their point of origin to the biofuels production the UDB will enhance transparency, promote investment certainty and showcase the important and necessary services provided by companies within the waste-based and advanced biofuels sector. Quite notably, the UDB also ensures the registration of the sustainability information starting at the origin of the feedstock, regardless of its location globally. This has been a long-lasting request by our industry, and we are delighted to see it taking its final form. The UDB will therefore significantly support the work of economic operators, auditors, certification schemes, the European Commission, national authorities and other relevant third parties within the industry at large.
As highlighted in the DG ENER Union Database Communication for Launch Planning of 22nd November 2022, the role of voluntary schemes and certification bodies is indeed crucial for biofuels businesses and will become even more relevant once the UDB is fully operational in March. Their involvement will facilitate and streamline the work performed by auditors. Additional verifications and supply chain assessments will be facilitated by an unprecedented level of information traceability and transparency. EWABA will continue to work with voluntary schemes to ensure that their global network of multi-stakeholder associations, auditors and training programs are put to work to support the full supply chain implementation of the UDB.
The waste-based and advanced biofuels industry, their suppliers and customers welcome the option to develop new software to automate and simplify connections to the UDB through service providers which are approved by the Commission services and voluntary schemes.
EWABA members such as Greenergy, have been designing and testing the automated connection to the UDB provided by service provider Bioledger. EWABA members including Olleco, Europe’s leading UCO collector, operate well-established digital records of UCO collections which can be integrated with the Union Database through the verified service provider connections. To align with the Commission approval of voluntary schemes, service providers approved by one voluntary scheme should be mutually recognized by the other REDII voluntary schemes.
The industry’s role
Our members have been proactive in building systems for economic operators to comply with the UDB in order to demonstrate full traceability of the feedstock used, and are working constantly with certification schemes and legislators to support their efforts.
One of the most complete service provider proposals comes from our UK-based member Bioledger, which was established in 2019 specifically to address risks in biofuel supply chains using Internet of things (IoT), block chain and cloud-based infrastructure.
To deliver these digital traceability tools for the biofuels industry, Bioledger encouraged voluntary schemes and certified companies to act together and early to transition of the near 8,000 certified companies in over 150 countries onto harmonized digital trading applications. Bioledger has already deployed mobile apps for first collectors of waste feedstocks and a mass balance application which is designed to record and report transactions into the EU biofuels database.
Bioledger has worked with EWABA members and wider industry representatives to test and improve their software system and be fully prepared for full digital traceability across all biofuel transactions from 2023.
As certification schemes appear not to be completely ready with their solutions to help the economic operators to upload their data in to the UDB in a simple and user-friendly manner, the role of private initiatives such as those by EWABA members and companies like Bioledger is of key relevance especially in the short- and mid-term. They have demonstrated that registration is already possible.
UDB joins recent more stringent standards for certification schemes
The biofuels sector is one of the most heavily regulated in the world and industry players are working strenuously to ensure sustainability at all steps of the supply chain. Early last year, the European Commission adopted stricter standards for certification schemes based on REDII requirements. We are confident that the revised rules for voluntary schemes significantly strengthen traceability across the supply chain for all the feedstock processed in the EU. The improved standards include a number of improvements to certification schemes proposed by our industry in the “EWABA Standard of Transparency” shared with the European Commission, certification schemes and other industry stakeholders in late 2019.
Volumes will drive UDB focus
The UDB will be key for waste-based and advanced feedstocks from Annex IX of the REDII, given their ever-growing role as go-to feedstocks for the decarbonization of the EU road, maritime and aviation transport sectors. Voluntary schemes and economic operators using the database will track the feedstocks already traded in the market. The most significant feedstocks in terms of imported volume are used cooking oils (UCO) and animal fats.
Imported feedstocks (as opposed to importing end products) are crucial for European waste-based and advanced biofuels producers as they continue providing green jobs to the EU economy while increasing GHG savings to decarbonize the EU transport sector. As the UDB becomes fully operational we will have far more capabilities to monitor, report and verify the transactions being conducted along the biofuels supply chain. With the support of technology, far better systems exist to enhance sustainability and traceability practices.
It is time to eliminate the limitation on Annex IXB use
The new EU track and trace database for biofuels and bioliquids combined with stricter standards for certification schemes are major enablers for the complete elimination of the 1.7% limitation for part B of Annex IX (UCO and animal fats) in the REDIII revision. These to measures combined address any possible rationale that the measure might have had, even if flawed from its inception. In addition, the proposed inclusion of up to 14 new feedstocks to part B of Annex IX, soon to be adopted by the Commission, also gives us a strong argument making this limitation completely redundant and harmful for the industry at large.