Framework must be developed to encourage take-up of sustainable aviation fuels

environment, airlines, sustainability

Close to a decade on from the first test flight, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are not yet being produced in large quantities.

Over 40,000 SAF-using flights have taken to the skies, and deals have been struck that will see more than 1.5 billion gallons of SAF used in the years ahead. But more remains to be done if SAF are to reach a significant percentage of total aviation fuel.

The right policy framework is the main component necessary for SAF take-up in the years ahead

A number of challenges exist, from refinery capacity to the length of the certification process.

But panellists at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit agreed that the right policy framework is the main component necessary for SAF take-up in the years ahead.

As it stands, incentives commonly in place for fuels used by other modes of transportation encourage refineries to produce these subsidized fuels even if they are capable of producing SAF.

This affects the business case, says Jonathon Counsell, Group Head of Sustainability for the International Airlines Group. “Airlines can’t pay a premium,” he said.

“They simply can’t pay 30%-40% more for sustainable fuels when airlines have averaged little more than 1% profitability over history.”

Closing the gap between jet fuel and SAF with the right financial policies is both a local and global problem.

The panel agreed that regulatory authorities are largely unaware of the enormous strides taken by aviation in proving SAF safety and greater lobbying efforts are required.

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