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Action needed for UK to meet sustainable aviation fuel targets


New analysis from ICF shows that the UK has the necessary Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) feedstocks to meet the 10% UK SAF target by 2030 through UK production, although the industry coalition Sustainable Aviation warns that more government support is needed now to ensure that it happens.

It is believed that a UK SAF industry could create over 20,000 jobs and generate £3 billion in GVA by 2035 in areas earmarked for levelling up including the Humber, North West, South Wales and Teesside.

Reaching the 10% 2030 target would then be a springboard for further advances helping the UK reach net zero aviation by 2050.

The UK’s SAF feedstocks, it is suggested, will come from household, commercial, agricultural and forestry waste and waste industrial gases that would allow for domestic production to meet well over the 10% UK SAF mandate by 2030, as well as the expected UK aviation demand for SAF in line with a 2050 net zero trajectory.

However, as things stand, the current UK SAF projects in the pipeline would only be enough to meet around 50% of mandated demand by 2030, and still require further policy support to be built.

And having to rely on imports to close the gap could prove costly for the UK, which will face stiff competition in the face of global demand from EU mandates and targets being set in the US, Japan, Turkey, Canada, Australia and others.

As a result, the UK aviation and aerospace industries have reiterated calls for a price support mechanism, like a Contracts for Difference, which was successfully tried and tested to boost the UK offshore wind industry, to drive needed investment in UK production by giving investors’ confidence in a still nascent industry.

“A price support mechanism, which is necessary due to the lack of price certainty for SAF, has helped develop a world-leading renewable energy industry which is now cheaper than the alternatives and has brought huge economic benefits to the country,” says a statement from Sustainable Aviation.

“Due to the nature of SAF, such a mechanism would be ideal for SAF. Investment decisions are being made today, and significant investment is going to other countries, such as the US, given the positive policy decisions they have already taken to support their domestic SAF industries.

“Without more urgent action from the UK Government to help unlock private investment, we risk missing out on this opportunity to build a world-leading industry here at home.

“Alongside this, the emerging analysis makes clear the importance of a strategy by government to ensure that the needs of aviation for waste feedstocks and renewable energy to make low and zero carbon fuels are considered as part of the economy-wide net zero push.

“Without such action, feedstocks could be diverted elsewhere preventing the future production of SAF.”

Sustainable Aviation chair, Matt Gorman, said: “Working in partnership with government we have seen significant strides taken towards delivering a UK SAF industry with the £165 million Advanced Fuel Fund supporting first-of-a-kind plants, confirmation of a SAF mandate and a clear target within the Jet Zero Strategy for 5 UK SAF plants under  construction by the middle of this decade.

“The UK is on the cusp of something special, with a SAF industry capable of supporting over 20,000 UK jobs and generating £3 billion in GVA by 2035, helping aviation decarbonise and strengthening our fuel security. But we need the final pieces of the puzzle in place, with new SAF capacity built and delivering SAF this decade.”

Heathrow Airport CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “UK aviation is committed to net zero and with the clock ticking, the faster we ramp up supply and use of sustainable aviation fuels, the quicker we can decarbonise.

“We’ve got 10% SAF usage by 2030 in reach but the missing link is a price support mechanism. If government can act fast with policy support, we can foster investment in UK SAF, breathe life into a new British industry and help protect the benefits of flying for future generations.”

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