Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and SkyNRG have entered into agreements whereby employees of the software giant will have the CO2 emissions from their air travel between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and three West Coast destinations reduced through sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) credits purchased from SkyNRG. The funds from the credits will be used by SkyNRG to supply SAF produced by World Energy in California and delivered to the airport fuelling system used by Alaska Airlines. The three companies hope the partnership, the first of its kind in the United States, will serve as a model for other companies and organisations that are committed to reducing the environmental impact of business air travel. They said they would explore expanding the programme in the future and are supporting the development of a global environmental accounting standard for voluntary corporate SAF purchases.
“After a decade advancing sustainable aviation fuel, this partnership marks a significant milestone in the work to make SAF a commercially-viable aviation fuel alternative,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines. “SAF enables us to fly cleaner and reduce our impact on the environment. However, we cannot do this alone – we must work together with other industries and business leaders like Microsoft and SkyNRG, among others who are thinking big, to achieve our goals and grow the marketplace for SAF.”
The agreement between Alaska and Microsoft relates to flights by Microsoft employees from Seattle-Tacoma to San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles airports – the three most popular routes they travel on Alaska.
As part of Microsoft’s partnership agreement with SkyNRG, Microsoft will become the newest member of Board Now, a coalition of organisations committed to reducing carbon emissions from flying through directly contributing to the development of new SAF production capacity.
The SAF produced by World Energy uses waste oils and is claimed to deliver a life-cycle carbon reduction of 75% compared to fossil jet fuel and sustainability is guaranteed by SkyNRG through certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
“The emergence of a SAF production system and market is a once-in-a-century opportunity to launch a new energy source for an entire industry, guided by strong sustainability standards from day one,” said Theye Veen, SkyNRG’s Managing Director. “We are very pleased to be joined by leading companies Microsoft and Alaska Airlines in this next step.”
Microsoft has committed to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 remove from the environment more carbon than it has emitted since its founding.
The company’s EVP Worldwide Commercial Business, Judson Althoff, told a World Economics Forum webinar this week that Microsoft’s carbon emissions from employee air travel accounted for around 400,000 tonnes each year.
“It’s easy to do certain things in getting to net zero carbon but air travel is one of the more difficult ones, so this year we decided to make an additional commitment relative to sustainability and while right now not many of us are travelling we do expect business travel to return to significant and substantial levels,” he said.
“To address the challenge, we have formed partnerships with airlines like KLM and Alaska to invest in SAF for our business flights. In October, we partnered with KLM to purchase an amount of SAF equivalent to all flights taken by Microsoft employees between the US and the Netherlands. We’ve now built on this momentum by announcing a partnership with Alaska to acquire SAF for the total amount of fuel we would burn on Alaska for our busiest and most common routes for business travel.
“Whilst Covid has created a bit of relief on business travel, we expect to continue to travel in the future to engage with our customers and support them around the world, and we want to return to flying responsibly.
“Right now, SAF is more expensive and so it is harder for energy companies to justify production, so you end up with a chicken and egg conundrum between supply and demand. In order to break this cycle, companies like Microsoft need to step forward so that energy companies can see the demand signal and produce more SAF, and so the costs will come down to allow airlines like KLM and Alaska to purchase more SAF. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”
Microsoft, SkyNRG and Alaska are participating in a pilot project of the World Economics Forum’s ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow’ initiative to develop a global environmental accounting standard for voluntary corporate SAF purchases. They have also pledged to hold supplier and corporate forums to share learnings and increase interest in using SAF to lower the carbon emissions from business travel.
Photo: Alaska Airlines (Chad Slattery)