From the SDGs: Relevant targets

7.2) By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

7.3) By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

7.a) By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology.

7.b) By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.

From the SDGs: Aviation-relevant indicators

7.2.1) Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption [sustainable aviation fuel as a proportion of total jet fuel use]

7.B.1) Investments in energy efficiency as a percentage of GDP and the amount of foreign direct investment in financial transfer for infrastructure and technology to sustainable development services

Did you know?

Over 40,000 commercial flights have already taken place on sustainable aviation fuel, with that number increasing rapidly.

Relevance to aviation

The aviation industry is working hard to develop sustainable aviation fuels, as well as deploying renewable energy at airports. In recent years, the aviation industry has made substantial progress towards developing sustainable alternative fuels. These fuels can be up to 80% less carbon-intensive than traditional fossil-based jet fuel. The progress is encouraging, but the industry is aware that more work needs to be done if alternative fuel is to make up a significant share of the fuel supply.

Examples of action

  • Over 100 airports worldwide now utilise solar energy to power their operations.
  • Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport has instituted a policy of encouraging the uptake of low-emissions vehicles by giving priority to eco-taxis. 
  • Airlines worldwide have joined together to form the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), which aims to promote the use of sustainable aviation fuels www.safug.org. Meanwhile, the US government and aviation industry CAAFI partnership promotes the widespread adoption of this new energy source for the sector.
  • Helsinki Airport is using renewable diesel to power its ground vehicles.
  • Finnair’s new COOL Nordic Cargo Hub in Helsinki Cargo uses solar power to regulate the temperate of pharmaceutical and salmon supplies. 
  • Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority has opened a geothermal lake plate cooling system to provide Nashville International Airport with a sustainable energy source.
  • United Airlines is working with Los Angeles Airport and sustainable aviation fuel producer, AltAir, to conduct all regular United flights from Los Angeles on sustainable aviation fuel.
  • Alaska Air Group aims to convert 44% of its ground fleet to electric vehicles by 2020.

How governments can assist

  • To produce sustainable aviation fuel at commercial levels, governments need to work with and support the industry in their development, including by supporting the ASTM International process for testing and certifying new fuel pathways.
  • Governments need to institute the right policy environment to incentivise the production of these fuels. While the environmental case for the use of alternative fuels is clear, the economic case is also convincing. Once ramped up to commercial levels, alternative fuel supply would be more stable than traditional crude oil-based fuel and less susceptible to geopolitical events. It is essential that this investment is made now through positive economic measures, rather than waiting to rely on increasing costs of using fuels, which would have a negative impact on competition. The important milestone will be when the cost of sustainable aviation fuel reaches parity with the cost of using the current fossil fuel-based ‘Jet A-1’ for airlines.