IndiGo Airlines released a statement informing that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an international company to get Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). However, they have not revealed the name of the provider. Commercial aviation is responsible for 2 to 3 per cent of global carbon emissions. The report titled "IndiGo Green" mentioned that enough SAF is not yet available for mass production. They informed that the company was exploring using sustainable fuel and is in talks with partners globally. Due to the high rate of carbon emissions, teen environment activist Greta Thunberg has wholly given up flying to reduce her carbon footprint. This gave rise to a 'flight shame' movement across Europe.
Company Saved 4.67 Lakh Tonnes Of Aviation Fuel
Currently, airlines are taking several measures to reduce the consumption of aviation turbine fuel. The company is working towards fleet modernisation, trying various weight reduction options onboard, improvising flight routes, enhancing flight operations keeping in mind to achieve fuel-saving. However, the company also accepted that using sustainable fuel would be far more effective than incorporating the practices as mentioned above. The Hindu reported that the company saved 4.67 lakh tonnes of aviation fuel from 2015 to 2021 and now aims at reducing its carbon dioxide emission by 18 per cent per available seat kilometre (ASK). ASK calculates the passenger-carrying capacity by multiplying the total number of seats in the flight to the passenger's total number of kilometres.
Meanwhile, the United Nations-based International Civil Aviation Organisation uses the terminology of 'alternative fuels'. The specialised agency defines it as any fuel that can generate lower carbon emissions on a life cycle basis. SAF is called 'biofuels' since they were extracted from biological resources. However, the advancement in technology has allowed non-biological resources, and thus, the name was modified to 'SAF'. The Hindu quoted the International Air Transport Association (IATA) defining it as 'any fuel that has the potential to generate lower carbon emissions than conventional kerosene on a lifecycle basis." The SAF is prepared by blending the conventional kerosene with hydrocarbons. It gives an impressive reduction of over 80 per cent in carbon emissions over the lifespan of the fuel compared to the jet fuel. It also depends on the kind of feedstock is used, production method and supply chain to the airport.
Limited Feedstock Availability
Sustainable aviation fuel costs more than traditional jet fuel. This is due to the difficult access of sustainable feedstocks and the constant evolution of technology. It s expected that as the technology gradually evolves, it would be easier for customers to access the fuel. The companies currently need to come together and use all options available for a reduction in carbon emissions. The SAF will dramatically drop the carbon emissions by 80 per cent in comparison to traditional fuels. The higher cost of SAF because of the limited feedstock availability inhibits a broader reach for energy.
The transition from jet fuel to sustainable fuel would be a vital cause of the reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. More than 30 airlines worldwide have either deployed the use of sustainable fuels or are in the process of doing so. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and KLM are amongst the leaders who initiated these environment-friendly fuels. The IATA called on the governments to cushion the airlines for shifting to sustainable fuel. The global aviation industry reaches its target of cutting the net emissions to half by 2050. Suppose the governments worldwide provide stimulus packages for making the much-needed shift to SAF through direct investment. The current annual production of 100 million litres of SAF provides for only 0.1 per cent of the total aviation fuel consumed by the industry. It is a proven technology and has been used on more than 3,00,000. Moreover, no engine modifications are required to replace jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel.
Shifting from jet fuel to sustainable fuel will help ease the ongoing climate crisis. Global climate change is already having visible effects on the environment. Glaciers are melting, the ice on rivers and lakes is gradually breaking up, plant and animal ranges are shifting. The gases released by flights leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the warming up of climate Governments of several countries have pledged to limit the rising of temperatures by 1.5 degrees celsius. The European Union has taken the lead by the member states making agreements on eco-friendly transports. They had set the target that by 2020, at least 10 per cent of the fuel should be from renewable resources.
The IATA member airlines and the wider aviation industry have pursued the ambitus mission of reducing greenhouse gases. In the Union Budget of 2020-2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman allocated ₹3,797 crore to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The current year's budget allocation is 22 per cent lower than the previous year, which was ₹4,131 crore. India's transition towards clean, affordable and renewable energy can help the country to prepare better for global shocks. We are the fifth-largest economy in the world and still have a long way to go. Being heavily dependent on energy consumption, the International Energy Agency predicts that we would experience the most significant energy demand through 2040.
The positive thing about today's world is that we have developed the technology that converts garbage and used cooking oil and agriculture residues into making Sustainable Aviation Fuel for the world. India faces new challenges of aviation emissions and waste. Sustainable Aviation Fuel presents us with an opportunity to solve both problems. The aviation industry has been hit hard by the pandemic but has gradually started to recover domestically. In the coming years, the industry is expected to grow by double digits, and so will aviation emissions. India must develop lasting low-carbon emitting solutions to achieve the target of becoming the global leader in low-carbon aviation fuel. With public-private solid cooperation, the aviation sector is one of the most organised sectors globally. If a developing country like India invests in developing sustainable flying solutions, we can gain immensely.