Uniting Producers

By Robert Vierhout | November 15, 2010
The eBIO brand is no longer. For five years it served the European fuel alcohol industry well. In those years, the industry has changed. Few players became many players and small players became big players. Fuel ethanol output quadrupled. The European ethanol market underwent a structural change and so did the regulatory framework.

All these changes, and especially the regulatory, were instrumental in bringing about ePURE, the European Producers Union of Renewable Ethanol. An expansion of eBIO, this new association will have a larger scope, representing traditional markets such as beverage and industrial use in addition to fuel ethanol.

EPURE is the result of a merger of two ethanol associations—eBIO and UEPA. The latter will not be familiar to most EPM readers, it was a much older organization set up in 1959 with a focus on traditional ethanol markets, though not exclusively. As ethanol production in Europe has always been and still is dominated by France, the main driver behind UEPA was the French industry.

In November 2008, the core members of both associations decided that the time was ripe to start talks on a merger. They understood that synergy was possible and necessary, but only through a united, single voice. Having several voices representing the interests of a single industry is not cost-effective, not efficient and often counterproductive. Different messages will be abused by the opponents and confuse the regulators.

EPURE's structure is very similar to the Renewable Fuels Association. Ethanol producing companies form the core of the association represented by a board of directors. To make the organization lean and mean, however, an executive committee of 10 board members steers ePURE. There are also associate members representing companies with an interest in a strongly developing ethanol sector. Producing and associate members come together once a year in a general assembly. All members can contribute to the policy development of ePURE through several working groups that provide technical input to the board as it makes policy decisions. The organization has a support staff of six, most of them with a solid background in both EU affairs and the ethanol business.

The new association brings together 18 producing members operating in 13 EU member states and having an installed production capacity of close to 5.5 billion liters. This means that ePURE represents around 80 percent of total EU installed production capacity. Producers who are not (yet) members of ePURE are not organized. Some of them are operating in one of the remaining eight countries with production capacity. There are six EU member states that do not produce ethanol at all.

EPURE's mission will be very similar to eBIO's—defending the interests of European ethanol producers. Most of the work will go into lobbying regulators, stakeholders, media and the general public to ensure the formation of policies and rules that promote the beneficial uses of ethanol in Europe. It means that the agenda of ePURE will not be much different from the one eBIO deployed. Most of ePURE's work will revolve around issues related to biofuels, now supported by more producers and all the key players in Europe.

EPM's readership will continue to receive insights on what is brewing in Europe in this column, now renamed "Europe Calling." I will do my very best to keep you well informed. The only thing you need to get used to is the new logo.

For me, personally, to turn this merger into the same successful endeavour as was eBIO will be a big challenge. It took us some time in Europe to acknowledge the need for this merger but I am convinced this was the only way forward and it will be to the benefit of the ethanol industry. Speaking with one voice makes the sector powerful and heard. We need to pursue this in every country, region and at global scale. We are not there yet. I hope we in Europe have for once set an example in the ethanol industry.

Author: Robert Vierhout
Secretary-general, ePURE