1 December 2021

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

American Airlines invests $100m to join Bill Gates’ new clean tech Breakthrough initiative

American Airlines has become an anchor partner in Bill Gates’ new Breakthrough Energy Catalyst and committed an investment of $100 million in the programme to support the advancement and funding of sustainable aviation fuels and other emissions reduction technologies such as green hydrogen, direct air capture and long-duration energy storage. According to Gates, Catalyst will focus on supporting technologies that are vital to reaching global net zero emissions but are currently too expensive to be adopted at scale. “By coordinating investments and directing them towards these critical technologies, we can reduce their ‘green premiums’ and help them get to market faster, so we can all reach our climate goals,” he said. American joins six other anchor partners as the first group of private sector organisations in the programme: ArcelorMittal, Bank of America, The BlackRock Foundation, Boston Consulting Group, General Motors and Microsoft. Introduced earlier this year, Catalyst is part of the larger Breakthrough Energy network founded by Gates. This includes Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is focused on investing in entrepreneurial companies with clean energy solutions and has investments in aviation start-ups Heart Aerospace and ZeroAvia.

Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is described as a first-of-its-kind model bringing together companies, governments and private philanthropy to accelerate the adoption of critical, next generation clean technologies. The partners pledge to work together to finance, produce and buy new technology solutions that are currently more expensive than their existing fossil-fuel emitting counterparts.

“We see immense promise in the mission of Catalyst and our investment is a vote of confidence in the difference-making potential of this unique and collaborative approach,” said American CEO Doug Parker. “We have an ambitious vision of a low-carbon future for our airline and a plan to match, but we know our own efforts can only get us so far. By working in partnership with Catalyst, we’re helping accelerate and scale our industry’s nascent solutions, like sustainable aviation fuel, along with other technologies that will be necessary to reduce emissions from aviation and across the economy.”

American Airlines has a net zero by 2050 goal, along with a commitment to set a science-based 2035 intermediate target, which relies in large part on using increasing volumes of SAF. It has been taking delivery of SAF from Neste for over a year and has agreed to using 9 million gallons in total through until 2023, along with a further agreement to purchase up to 10 million gallons of carbon-neutral e-fuels produced by Prometheus Fuels. The airline says its partnership with Catalyst will augment the ongoing efforts to advance SAF and bring the market to scale.

The path to net zero also hinges on maximising the efficiency of its aircraft and operation, it adds, and has invested $24 billion in fleet modernisation with 600 new, more fuel-efficient aircraft while retiring a similar number of less-efficient planes.

“Because reducing the impact of air travel on the planet is inextricably linked with the actions of many other entities, fostering impactful collaboration – within the industry, across the private sector and with policymakers – is fundamental to American’s sustainability strategy,” said the airline. “Our anchor partnership with Catalyst exemplifies the type of cooperation necessary to decarbonise the industry and forestall the most serious effects of climate change.”

Since it was launched, Catalyst has already announced large-scale partnerships with the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the US Department of Energy. The seven new partners are expected to make significant investments in early commercial demonstration projects, offer perspectives on continued private sector engagement, provide insights on investments and offtake strategies, and help to encourage more companies to join the programme. Additional anchor partners may be announced in the lead-up to the COP26 climate change conference, it said.

“By working with this growing community of private and public partners, Catalyst will take a global view of the energy innovation landscape – the key technologies, leading-edge companies, financing partners and pivotal policies – and fund the projects that will have the greatest positive impact for our planet,” said Gates.

“American Airlines has demonstrated both ambition and action when it comes to combating climate change, and we applaud the leadership role they’re taking in joining Catalyst as an anchor partner.”

Photo: American Airlines