Producers of green-hydrogen based aviation fuels such as liquid hydrogen or e-kerosene could be in line for a subsidy from the UK, following an amendment to a key piece of legislation currently passing through Parliament.
No specific details are available yet, but the so-called “sustainable aviation revenue certainty scheme” would have the purpose of giving “producers of sustainable aviation fuel greater certainty than they otherwise would have about the revenue that they will earn from sustainable aviation fuel that they produce,” reads the amendment to the Energy Bill — which is in the very latter stages of passage into law.
Options for the design and implementation of the scheme must be put out for consultation within six months, and the secretary of state responsible must report back to Parliament within 18 months.
Unusually, the UK has defined “sustainable aviation fuels” — generally taken to mean biofuels — as both biofuels and e-fuels derived from green or pink hydrogen, such as e-kerosene or liquid H2.
“SAF includes biofuels derived from wastes and residues, recycled carbon fuels (such as unrecyclable waste plastic and waste industrial gases) and power-to-liquid fuels — where hydrogen is combined with non-biomass CO2 using renewable or nuclear power),” reads a UK definition, seen by Hydrogen Insight.
In theory, this could mean that green hydrogen producers, which are already set to benefit from the UK’s hydrogen business model (HBM) programme — a de facto Contracts for Difference scheme — would also be in line for support to provide H2 for aviation e-fuel manufacture.
However, in practice, the UK government is unlikely to grant subsidies twice, and those in line for direct support from any “revenue certainty scheme” are likely to be ineligible for the HBM and vice versa.
Nevertheless, the scheme could shore up green hydrogen project dynamics by incentivising take-up of hydrogen fuel in the aviation sector.
The news comes as aviation giants EasyJet, Airbus and Rolls-Royce formed a lobby group aimed at accelerating the UK's delivery of zero-carbon flight, particular for short-haul.
The Energy Bill was tabled by the ruling Conservative government, which is expected to lose power in the next general election in 2025, has now had its third reading in both UK houses and is now just one step away from receiving Royal Assent and passing into law.
The bill also includes an amendment requiring gas network operators taking part in the UK’s controversial proposed hydrogen heating trials to secure a court order before forcing entry into homes to carry out “essential” works for the trial.
Labour member of Parliament Alan Whitehead, whose party is expected to take a more seats in the House of Commons in the next election, raised concerns about how the UK uses its resources to decarbonise aviation.
“We understand that this is a substantial element of the transition that will be undertaken in aviation, but we have to be careful that we do not procure all the resources that might go to other things for use in making sustainable aviation fuel, because there are many other things that can be done with those fuels,” he said in a debate in the Commons this week. “We need a balance between the various possible candidates for what would go into sustainable aviation fuel for the future.”
Earlier this year green electricity pioneer Ecotricity announced plans to introduce an intra-UK hydrogen-powered airline in 2024, using a 19-seater aircraft fitted with fuel cells.