16 April 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Inclusion of SAF in new climate legislation for EU cleantech industry welcomed by aviation sector

A European aviation industry coalition has welcomed the inclusion of sustainable aviation fuel as a ‘strategic net zero technology’ under the EU Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA), which has received provisional agreement between the European Parliament and Council. The Act is a central part of the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan, which aims to follow the example of the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act in stimulating domestic manufacturing capacity in clean energy technologies, with the intention of reaching at least 40% of expected EU demand by 2030. The European Commission says the Act will create the regulatory conditions necessary to attract and support investment, and help build more production facilities in a faster manner. The Commission has also recommended an EU-wide 90% net GHG emissions reduction target by 2040 compared to 1990 levels and put forward a series of measures to achieve it, including through the use of SAF. The industry alliance said while the inclusion of SAF in the NZIA would pave the way for the development of a strong EU SAF market, further policy action was needed to meet the updated 2040 climate ambitions.

The NZIA will enhance the competitiveness and resilience of the European cleantech industry and support the creation of green, quality jobs as the EU seeks to reach climate neutrality by 2050, claims the Commission. The regulation identifies a broad set of net zero technologies that can be supported through strategic projects such as solar photovoltaic, onshore and offshore wind, fuel cells, electrolysers, batteries, grid technologies and sustainable alternative transport fuels, including SAF.

“The NZIA political agreement is a significant stride towards realising our ambitious climate and economic objectives,” said the Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen. “It demonstrates our collective commitment to build a more sustainable, resilient and competitive industrial sector in Europe. Together, we are making the EU a global frontrunner in the clean energy transition.”

The Act aims to create a simplified and enabling regulatory environment that will reduce the administrative burden for cleantech manufacturing, accelerate CO2 capture and storage in the EU, facilitate market access for net zero products and support the development of net zero skills and innovation. It also foresees the creation of a ‘Net-Zero Europe Platform’ to serve as central coordination hub, fostering information and exchange to facilitate the implementation and supporting investment of initiatives throughout the EU.

Renewable hydrogen is seen as one of the key technologies of the NZIA and indispensable in reaching the EU’s 2030 climate targets and 2050 climate neutrality. “By scaling up its production, we will reduce the use of fossil fuels in European industries and serve the needs of hard-to-electrify sectors,” said the Commission. To this end, it is to set up the European Hydrogen Bank to support the uptake of renewable hydrogen within the EU, as well as imports from international partners, and unlock private investments in hydrogen value chains.

The EU has a legal target to reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and has adopted a ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package to accomplish this goal, including the ReFuelEU regulation on mandating SAF uptake at EU airports. The new recommendation for a 90% reduction by 2040 target will help European industry, investors, citizens and governments to make decisions in this decade that will keep the EU on track to meet its climate neutrality objective in 2050, says the Commission.

“It will send important signals on how to invest and plan effectively for the longer term, minimising the risk of stranded assets,” it said on announcing the target. “With this forward-planning, it is possible to shape a prosperous, competitive and fair society, to decarbonise EU industry and energy systems, and to ensure that Europe is a prime destination for investment, with stable future-proof jobs.

“The EU will continue to develop the right framework conditions to attract investment and production. A successful climate transition should go hand-in-hand with strengthened industrial competitiveness, especially in cleantech sectors. Public investment should be well targeted with the right mix of grants, loans, equity, guarantees, advisory services and other public support. Carbon pricing should continue to play an important role in incentivising investments in clean technologies and generating revenues to spend on climate action and social support for the transition.”

Achieving the target would require both emissions reductions and carbon removals, added the Commission, with the deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as the use of captured carbon in industry. Carbon capture should be targeted to hard-to-abate sectors where alternatives are less viable and carbon removals will also be needed to generate negative emissions after 2050.

Under the ReFuelEU Aviation regulation, aviation fuel suppliers are obligated to ensure that all fuel made available to aircraft operators at EU airports incorporate 6% SAF in 2030, with 1.2% of fuels in 2030 being synthetic fuels. From 2040, the minimum share of SAF rises to 34%, of which a minimum share of 10% of synthetic fuels, reaching 70% and 35% respectively by 2050.

The 2040 recommendation will be followed by a legislative proposal made by the next Commission, after the European elections in June.

The inclusion of SAF in the NZIA is only the first step in developing a world-leading SAF industry in Europe, said the Destination 2050 cross-industry alliance of European airline, airport, civil aeronautics industry and air navigation service providers, which came together in 2021 to commission and then publish a decarbonisation roadmap for the European aviation sector.

“The Commission’s communication recommending the new 2040 target expressly recognises the need to address barriers to SAF deployment at scale, giving the aviation sector priority access to feedstocks and putting incentives in place to close the price gap between SAF and conventional kerosene. SAFs are a crucial component that will enable European aviation to accelerate its decarbonisation, in full alignment with the bloc’s ambitious climate agenda,” said a statement by the five members of the alliance – Airlines for Europe, ACI Europe, ASD, CANSO Europe and European Regions Airline Association.

“The international race to become a SAF leader has started and further policy incentives to scale up the production and uptake are required for Europe to become a leader in the global competition for SAF. These include the extension of the SAF flexibility mechanism beyond 2034; the extension of the current 20 million allowances threshold and 2030 time-limit under the SAF allowances mechanisms; and increased financial support for development of SAF, including through the Innovation Fund, as well as simplifying the administrative procedure for accessing these funds.”

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