What can be the best and sustainable solution to achieve the objectives of reducing emissions and using renewable sources as established by the RED II directive? In fact, this European standard provides that gasoline, diesel and methane suppliers will achieve by 2030 a share of at least 16% of renewable sources on the total of fuels released for consumption. But there is no single answer to the question, certainly a piece of the puzzle is the need to lay the foundations for the development of a new industry, respectful of sustainability and circularity criteria. For AssoDistil, the national industrial association of alcohol and brandy distillers, the way to go is the use of sustainable bioethanol, a resource already available in Italy and which does not require new infrastructures, a 100% renewable biofuel capable of reducing emissions by at least 75% compared to fossil fuels. These issues were the focus of the workshop "Bioethanol: sustainable mobility is now!", Organized by AssoDistil to raise awareness among policy makers and public opinion on this important resource.
With RED II and the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (Pniec) of 2020, our country has introduced a progressive obligation of biofuel mixed with gasoline equal to 0.5% in 2023 and 3% in 2025. Since today bioethanol is probably the only biofuel that can be mixed with petrol, AssoDistil estimates that the adoption of this standard could result in a share of this product equal to at least 55ktonn / a in 2023 and at least 320 ktonn / a in 2025 and which it will replace equal amount of fossil sources.
Bioethanol can also be obtained from agro-food waste (advanced bioethanol) and is perfectly compatible with the current motorization of the vehicle fleet and therefore does not have any need for expensive infrastructures - as is the case for other energy carriers. In fact, bioethanol can be mixed with gasoline without any need for interventions on cars in circulation up to at least 10%, which is in fact the standard used in the major countries of the European Union. Furthermore, bioethanol is produced in Italy from certified sustainable supply chains that use agricultural residues, such as pomace, lees, dedicated no-food biomass and agro-industrial waste. This also lays the foundations for an industrial conversion of petrochemicals towards green chemistry, which in Italy presents absolute excellence as it was the first in the world to develop a technology for the production of bioethanol from cellulose.
If by introducing a minimum obligation to mix bioethanol with gasoline, an important step forward has been made, considering the Italian technological leadership, nevertheless the bioethanol market in Italy is struggling to take off. Up to now, all national production has been destined for neighboring European markets, such as Switzerland and France, with the double disadvantage of not using the renewable energy quota in our country and reducing the environmental benefit of the bioethanol produced here and exported due to emissions. related to transport.
A European study conducted by the European Climate Foundation has estimated the environmental, economic and employment effects of the development of bioethanol in Europe, highlighting how conventional fuels can be replaced with up to 16% advanced biofuels without impacting other existing supply chains. The production of advanced biofuels would consequently involve the construction of about 150 plants for an investment of over 10 billion euros and the creation of 160 thousand jobs, both direct and indirect, temporary and permanent. Furthermore, the release for consumption of these advanced biofuels would allow the reduction of at least 60% of emissions as well as create 300 thousand new jobs in the agricultural sector which would benefit from 15 billion euros / year of supplementary income.
Consequently, for Italy, in the face of a certain demand of at least 10% of bioethanol in petrol by 2030 and a strategy of public incentives for the realization of the investments, it could therefore be envisaged the construction of at least 15 new plants with the consequent mobilization of about 1.5 billion euros of investment, 16 thousand new jobs in industry, in addition to 30 thousand in the agricultural sector with an overall income integration of about 1.5 billion. This without considering the possibility of using part of the more than 3 million hectares of inactive land in Italy to cultivate the raw material for the production of advanced bioethanol.
"In terrible moments like those we have been experiencing for a couple of months following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict - declares AssoDistil president Antonio Emaldi - the use of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, such as bioethanol, appears extremely indispensable to free ourselves as much as possible from oil imports and, at the same time, improving the environmental impact. It is clear to everyone that the increase in inflation, energy costs, raw materials and logistics are putting a strain on the resilience of the European system, both at a social and industrial level. In the hope that the conflict does not extend and end as soon as possible, it is however our duty to think that only with the construction of new industry and jobs will it be possible to mitigate all the negativities mentioned above. And bioethanol represents an opportunity for our country that must certainly be seized. "
Precisely on the occasion of the workshop, AssoDistil reiterated and asked that Italy, aligning itself with what has already been done by the major European countries, finally adopt a policy of strong support for the production and consumption of sustainable bioethanol and for the development of its supply chains to ensure the achievement the objectives set by the European Union, both in terms of the use of renewable sources in transport, and of decisive and immediate reduction of climate-altering gas emissions produced by the transport sector.
“As AssoDistil we ask for binding and increasing targets for the release for consumption of bioethanol, both conventional and advanced in the petrol supply chain at least until 2030 to guarantee an adequate reduction of emissions” - explains Sandro Cobror, director of AssoDistil. “Furthermore, the excise duties imposed on bioethanol are inexplicably equated to those on petrol which are among the highest of all the fuels on the market. In this sense, we hope for a review of excise duties so that they take into account the environmental impact of individual fuels: the polluter pays more. Lastly, as an association, we ask for support for investments in plants for the production of advanced bioethanol alongside a streamlining of bureaucracy which today risks penalizing the sector too much ".