Heathrow expands green goals but warns UK risks slipping behind

All the sustainable aviation fuel used by airport is imported

Virgin Atlantic is one of the airlines using the sustainable fuel. PA
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The UK aviation industry is at risk of falling behind other nations because it has to import all its green fuel, managers at Heathrow Airport have warned.

Heathrow aims to triple its use of sustainable aviation fuel, made from ingredients including agricultural waste and used cooking oil, but says it needs more government help to compete with the US and Europe.

Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said Heathrow had “led the way on decarbonising aviation” through the use of SAF, but all of it was imported.

The fuel reduces carbon emissions by up to 70 per cent compared with traditional jet fuel, but is several times more expensive to produce.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is not just about protecting the benefits of aviation in a net-zero world,” Mr Holland-Kaye said.

“It's about economic opportunity, creating jobs here in the UK and securing the country's future energy supplies.

“Heathrow has led the way on decarbonising aviation by incentivising airlines to use Saf, and Team Heathrow is now probably the biggest user of SAF in the world.

“But it is currently all imported. If Britain really wants to compete with the scale of ambition and the credible action seen from the US and Europe, supportive government policy is needed and it is needed now.”

Heathrow runs a scheme to provide the fuel to airlines and covers up to half the extra cost through a £38 million fund.

Last year, 0.5 per cent of the fuel bought at Heathrow was through the initiative, which was oversubscribed. The airport announced on Tuesday it intended to raise the figure to 1.5 per cent in 2023.

It is aiming for sustainable fuel usage of 11 per cent by the end of the decade.

Airlines using SAF include British Airways' parent company IAG, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, Air France, KLM and JetBlue.

Heathrow fears a tax credit scheme in the US designed to lure investors in SAF production could mean that the UK misses out.

It wants the government to introduce a mechanism that would reduce the difference in price between sustainable and traditional jet fuel.

The UK has plans for at least five commercial-scale sustainable aviation fuel plants to be under construction in the country by 2025.

The government has invested money in developing the sites, and proposed that airlines operating in the UK must ensure the sustainable product makes up at least 10 per cent of their fuel by 2030.

The fuel can work in existing aircraft without the need for technical modifications.

Updated: February 21, 2023, 5:12 PM