Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

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Bioenergy > Policy > UK/EU policy > Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)

The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) is a mandate for biofuel use adopted by the United Kingdom.



  • Starting in 2008 the RTFO will "place an obligation on fuel suppliers to ensure that a certain percentage of their aggregate sales is made up of biofuels. The effect of this will be to require 5% of all UK fuel sold on UK forecourts to come from a renewable source by 2010."[1]
  • Renewable Fuel Certificates will be issued, which can be traded by companies.
  • Biofuel producers will have to report on the green-house gas balance, and environmental impact of their biofuels.
  • Starting in April 2010, the government will reward biofuels under the RTFO based on the amount of carbon the fuel saves. This will be subject to compatibility with EU and WTO requirements and future consultation on the environmental and economic impacts;
  • Starting in April 2011, the government will reward biofuels only if they meet appropriate sustainability standards. This will be subject to the same provisos as above and subject to the development of such standards for the relevant feedstocks.
  • The government will ask the RTFO Administrator to report every three months on the effectiveness of the RTFO’s environmental reporting system, and on the carbon and sustainability effects of the RTFO;
  • The government has asked the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership to explore the feasibility of a voluntary labelling scheme, allowing responsible retailers to show that the biofuels they supply are genuinely sustainable. Any scheme would need to be compatible with WTO rules."[3]





  • Renewable Fuels Agency closes, 25 March 2011 by "The agency tasked with regulating biofuels entering the UK market and encouraging their sustainability will close its doors for the last time next week."
    • "On Thursday, 31 March the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) will be dissolved as part of a wider review of arms-length government bodies. Its duties will be transferred to the Department for Transport."
    • "In its brief history, the Renewable Fuels Agency has been responsible for several achievements that went beyond good practice and set the scene for a more sustainable supply of biofuels."
    • "Above all, it has established a system allowing the provenance of fuels to be tracked from farm to fuel supplier."
    • "It has delivered real, demonstrable changes in the procurement policy of major oil companies leading to better environmental and social outcomes – many of the obligated suppliers’ annual sustainability reports outline how they have been influenced by the RTFO with some reporting real changes to their biofuel strategy in response to the regulation or conversations with the RFA."
    • "It has produced the figures that back up the assumption that there are good biofuels and bad biofuels – its regular reports cut through the background chatter and allow comparison of feedstocks based on facts rather than opinion."[1]
  • Two-thirds of UK biofuel fails green standard, figures show, 27 January 2011 by the Guardian: "Less than one-third of the biofuel used on UK roads meets government environmental standards intended to protect water supplies, soil quality and carbon stocks, according to new figures."
    • "The Renewable Fuels Agency says that just 31% of the biofuel supplied under the government's initiative to use fuel from plants to help tackle climate change met its green standard. For the remaining 69% of the biofuel, suppliers could not say where it came from, or could not prove it was produced in a sustainable way, the figures show."
    • "In April 2008, suppliers began mixing biofuel into all petrol and diesel supplies under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), and by 2009-10 – the time period to which these latest figures relate – biofuels accounted for 3.3% of UK transport fuels. Suppliers were supposed to ensure that 50% of biofuel met government environmental standards, but the target is not mandatory and was not met."
    • "The majority of UK biofuel is imported. Biodiesel from soy was the single biggest source (31%) in 2009/10, with a large increase in Argentinian soy compared to the previous year, something that Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter calls a 'huge cause for concern'."[2]


  • UK biofuels 'falling short' on environmental standards, 31 August 2010 by BBC: "The Renewable Fuels Agency says it is disappointed that the vast majority of biofuels sold on UK forecourts do not conform to environmental standards."
    • "The body said fuel suppliers were meeting legally binding volume targets but some were falling 'well short' on achieving voluntary green standards."
    • "Figures released by the RFA show that just 33% of biofuels met an environmental standard, well short of the 50% goal for 2009/10."
    • "Currently under the RTFO, only the volume target is mandatory; the carbon savings and environmental standards goals were voluntary."
    • "However, this is set to change when the EU Renewable Fuel Directive (RED) comes into force at the end of the year, which will expect member states to ensure the biofuels meet both environmental and carbon saving criteria."
    • "Under RED, member states will also be expected to ensure that 10% of transport fuel is from a renewable source by 2020."[3]
'Just four per cent of biofuels imported from abroad are sustainably produced - the vast majority are causing deforestation and land use changes that are increasing climate changing emissions and pushing people off their land.
'Biofuels are not the answer to our energy woes - the UK should scrap its targets and must focus our attention on developing greener transport alternatives to cars, such as fast and affordable rail services and cycling and walking.'"[4]


  • British biofuels hit the environmental mark, 12 October 2008 by Farmer's Weekly: "Nearly all (97%) of biofuels sourced from British feedstocks met the government’s RTFO (Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation) environmental standards, according to the first report by the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) – the body set up to administer the RTFO. That compared with just 20% for all biofuels used by UK fuel companies."
    • "Speaking on behalf of the biofuel industry, the Renewable Energy Association’s Clare Wenner said the findings clearly showed the UK biofuels industry was delivering on its promises to provide biofuels that both made greenhouse gas savings and were produced in a sustainable way."
    • "The report also showed that an overall carbon reduction of 44% was achieved against a government target of 40%."[5]
  • Biofuel Rule Will Do More Harm Than Good, Oxfam Says, 15 April 2008 by Bloomberg: "U.K. fuels for cars and trucks must contain biofuels starting today, a move that may do more harm than good to the environment and drive food prices higher, charities including Oxfam and Greenpeace said."
    • "'The sorts of problems that biofuels are causing are irreversible,' Robert Bailey, policy adviser to the development charity Oxfam, said in a telephone interview. 'If rainforest gets chopped down, it's gone forever. If somebody loses access to food, they become malnourished, their physical and mental development is impaired and they may die.'"
    • "According to Oxford-based Oxfam, the U.K. policy will cost taxpayers 500 million pounds ($1 billion) a year, and may lead to 60 million people being forced from their land to make way for biofuel plantations. About 30 percent of recent food price inflation can be attributed to biofuel production, the group said, citing the International Food Policy Research Institute."[7]


  2. Department of Transportation Consultation on the Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation
  3. UK Government Proposes New Measures to Encourage Sustainable Biofuels

United Kingdom edit

Events | Issues | News | Policies (Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation/RTFO, Gallagher Review)
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Policy implementation in the United Kingdom

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