By Emmie V. Abadilla
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) set out a target of one billion passengers on flights powered by a mix of jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2025.
The association announced its target on the 10th anniversary of the first flight to blend sustainable aviation fuel and ordinary jet fuel.
On February 24, 2008, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 flew from London to Amsterdam powered by SAF.
The flight demonstrated the viability of drop-in biofuels, which can be blended with traditional jet fuel, using existing airport infrastructure.
A flight completely powered by sustainable fuel has the potential to reduce the carbon emissions of that flight by up to 80%.
“The momentum for sustainable aviation fuels is now unstoppable,” IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac maintained.
“From one flight in 2008, we passed the threshold of 100,000 flights in 2017. We expect to hit one million flights during 2020. But that is still just a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve,” he went on.
“We want 1 billion passengers to have flown on a SAF-blend flight by 2025. That won’t be easy to achieve. We need governments to set a framework to incentivize production of SAF and ensure it is as attractive to produce as automotive biofuels,” the CEO underscored.
The airline industry’s commitment to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and to cut net carbon emissions by 50% compared to 2005 now drives the initiative to increase the SAF uptake.
A number of airlines, including Cathay Pacific, FedEx Express, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Qantas, and United, have made significant investments by forward-purchasing 1.5 billion gallons of SAF.
Airports in Oslo, Stockholm, Brisbane and Los Angeles are already mixing SAF with the general fuel supply.
On the present uptake trajectory it is anticipated that half a billion passengers will have flown on a SAF-blend powered flight by 2025.
But if governments, through effective policy, help the sustainable fuel industry to scale-up its production, it is possible that one billion passengers could experience an SAF flight by 2025.
To achieve this, SAF must be allowed to compete with automotive biofuels through equivalent or magnified incentives
SAF production facilities should have loan guarantees and capital grants. Support should also be given for SAF demonstration plants and supply chain research and development
Harmonized transport and energy policies, coordinated with the involvement of agriculture and military departments should also be given.