Major aviation sector players team up for new hydrogen alliance

The new Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance also includes Bristol Airport, GKN Aerospace and Orsted, with additional participants encouraged to sign up.

Through the alliance, businesses will collectively advocate for changes from the UK Government and devolved administrations needed to accelerate the development of hydrogen-powered aircraft and the related supply chains and infrastructure.

The coming months will see the alliance publishing a “clear and deliverable pathway” to using hydrogen in commercial aviation without jeapordising the Government’s existing commitments on energy security and costs.

Last April, the UK Government doubled its low-carbon hydrogen production capacity target for 2030 from 5GW to 10GW. Most hydrogen production globally is fossil fuelled; while it produces no CO2e emissions when burned, life-cycle emissions remain high.

The UK is, therefore, keen to be a leader in scaling alternative methods of production that produce lower life-cycle emissions. Ministers have been repeatedly pressed for clarity on not only scaling production but also setting the direction of travel for appropriate hydrogen use cases.

It goes without saying that the members of the new alliance see a major use case for hydrogen in aviation. A

The new alliance will push for the Government to take a decision promoting the role of hydrogen in aviation and, from there, assess and review the regulatory regimes for the sector to ensure they are “hydrogen-ready”.

Alliance members are also advocating for additional funding from Westminster, relating specifically to hydrogen R&D in transport. They want to see the funding fixed and provided over a ten-year period, to give clarity and continuity to the sector.

To date, funding for this specific sub-sector has been sporadic. The most recent round of aviation innovation funding for the low-carbon transition from the UK Government was made in February, totalling £113m.

“There is no doubt that the UK has the potential to become a world leader in hydrogen aviation, which could bring with it a £34bn per annum boost to the country’s economy by 2050, but in order to capture this opportunity, rapid change is needed and the time to act is now,” said Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren.

It is worth noting that Airbus is also participating in a separate, pan-industry alliance aimed at scaling green hydrogen production and use in the UK.

Technology pathway

While the UK Government has conceded that hydrogen and electric aircraft will have a role to play in reaching net-zero for domestic flights by 2040 and international ones by 2050, it is betting more heavily on alternative Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) in the nearer term.

This is an approach that had been advocated by airlines and airports but questioned by green groups and academics, given the potential environmental challenges of scaling SAF supply chains. The UK’s own climate advisors have stated that Ministers should also seek to cap passenger growth while implementing high-tech solutions.

Nonetheless, Ministers have stayed strong in their support for SAF. The Department for Transport (DfT) this week confirmed a new revenue certainty mechanism for SAF producers, designed to give these firms the longer-term certainty they need to invest in the UK.

The UK is notably aiming for the nation to have five large-scale SAF production plants in construction by the end of 2025. Westminster has invested £165m so far through an Advanced Fuel Fund, to this end.

The DfT will be consulting on the design and delivery of the mechanism later this year. It expects it to be in place in 2026, provided there are no major further delays to the Energy Bill that is currently in the House of Lords.

Related news: UK falling behind as global hydrogen race hots up

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    As a young man, some seventy years ago, there was considerable interest in a future “nuclear/hydrogen” economy. The matter was only a concept at that time, but the mere fact that it existed is thought provoking.

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