Outgoing Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye is calling on the UK Government to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel on home soil.
In an update on the airport’s sustainability progress, he said SAF was potentially a huge economic opportunity for Britain, which was in danger of falling behind and missing out on a multi-billion-pound industry.
“Sustainable aviation fuel is not just about protecting the benefits of aviation in a net zero world – it’s about economic opportunity, creating jobs here in the UK and securing the country’s future energy supplies,” he said.
“Heathrow has led the way on decarbonising aviation by incentivising airlines to use SAF, and Team Heathrow is now probably the biggest user of SAF in the world. But it is currently all imported.
“If Britain really wants to compete with the scale of ambition and the credible action seen from the US and Europe, supportive Government policy is needed and it is needed now.”
With last year’s SAF scheme oversubscribed, the airport is aiming to triple the percentage of SAF used in 2023 to approximately 1.5%, putting Heathrow on course to be one the world’s largest users of SAF.
Participants of the scheme include IAG, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, Air France, KLM and JetBlue.
Heathrow is targeting 11% SAF usage by 2030 but warns that high costs and low production volumes mean it remains in short supply with few able to access it at commercially viable rates.
Holland-Kaye called on the Government to act swiftly by committing into legislation a 10% mandate for SAF use by 2030 this year, before the impetus and the value is lost.
He said delay could mean that the UK SAF industry suffers and cannot keep up internationally.
He argued there is an appetite for investment but investors want certainty in the longer-term use of the technology before committing.
Heathrow is calling for the introduction of ‘contracts for difference’ price support mechanism, which would help to cut the price premium between SAF and fossil fuel. This approach has already been successfully used to boost technologies in the UK like solar and wind.