Sustainable aviation fuel taking off in Europe whilst UK seeks electric planes
The UK Government have shown their hand on sustainable aviation in recent days – announcing a string of multi-million-pound R&D projects.
These R&D projects focus on the potential of hydrogen and electric aircraft to facilitate sustainable flights with the largest grant was awarded to GKN Aerospace (£27m) to investigate the role of liquid hydrogen for regional air travel.
The signal from the UK Government that they see a future for electric and/or hydrogen planes is an interesting development. Many would argue that the rollout of electric and hydrogen propelled aircraft has limited appeal for long distance flights, and so this points to the Government seeking sustainable methods to get people off the roads and into the sky for their internal UK travel. Roads can then be freed up for lorries and HGVs which are likely to continue using diesel ICEs for the foreseeable future.
The UK’s forthcoming Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy, due to be announce later this year, will be an interesting read for aviation, particularly the use of electric and hydrogen aircraft for internal flights will likely form a major part. Let us hope that the aviation, rail and road are not dealt with individually and that policymakers recognise the role of an integrated sustainable transport system – a discussion we have not been well versed in having in the past.
Meanwhile, the EU continues to focus on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). We are at a crucial stage for the promotion and viability of various SAFs and policymakers need to create a secure and safe market for SAFs to be scaled up.
The problem EU policymakers in Brussels face is that the continuously lauded kerosene tax will almost certainly not be voted through, if ever actually proposed, and so SAFs need to be made more economically viable to push airlines away from fossil kerosene.
An EU Commission consultation in March of this year laid out several policy options, including the introduction of SAF quotas for airlines but the EU will only introduce such measures, and bring about the much-needed market certainty, when the private sector has demonstrated the viability of rolling out such fuels. There are a string of new projects waiting to take off as soon as the EU Institutions deliver greater market certainty.