Page 63 - European Energy Innovation - Summer 2017 publication
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Summer 2017 European Energy Innovation      63

                                                   AVIATION EMISSIONS

by Virgin Atlantic in 2008, significant    making the possibility of a fully-electric
progress has been made. By the end         commercial scale aircraft far more likely
of 2016, over 5,500 commercial flights     in the future. We have already seen
had been operated by a number of           prototypes of small, two seater electric
airlines using alternative fuel from a     aircraft in the shape of Airbus’ E-Fan
wide variety of sustainable feedstocks     and Siemens’ 330LE. The European
and to date, there are three airports      Union project, Clean Sky, and the US
regularly supplying sustainable            government-funded NASA are also
alternative fuel, Oslo, Stockholm and      active in this field.
Los Angeles, and a number of airlines
have signed offtake agreements with        Hybrid-electric commercial aircraft,
fuel suppliers.                            which use traditional jet fuel propulsion
                                           for take-off and landing, with electricity
The challenges facing the large-scale      used to power the cruising phase are
deployment of sustainable alternative      more likely to be feasible in the coming
fuels are not technical, but economic      decades. This April, for example, has
and political. What we now need is for     just seen an announcement by Zunum
the production and use of alternative      Aero, backed by Boeing and JetBlue, of
fuel to be economically viable. This       a regional-sized hybrid-electric aircraft
is where governments can help the          that it is hoped will be ready by the
industry, putting in place the right       mid-2020s.
policies to incentivise their production.
If this happens, the coming years could    With the continuing commitment to
see aviation significantly increase the    both alternative fuels and new aircraft
proportion of alternative fuel used by     technology, the future looks bright for
airlines, leading to major environmental   aviation’s sustainable future. l

While the sustainability credentials       For more details on how aviation is
of sustainable alternative fuels are
compelling, their use is unlikely to be    working to cut CO2 emissions, check
enough to reduce carbon emissions
at the scale needed to reach our 2050
goal. For this, we will need to develop
disruptive new aircraft technology that
lessen (or ideally remove) our reliance
on CO2-emitting jet fuel.

While the feasibility of developing
fully-electric aircraft is still to be
proved, battery technology has been
advancing at an encouraging pace,
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