Rolls-Royce’s chief executive Warren East has called on aviation to ramp up the use of biofuels to deliver its 2050 net-zero pledges.
East – who will step down from the engine manufacturer at the end of the year – said the industry needs transitional technologies like sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) while it develops greener aircraft.
“Ultimately, one day I’m pretty confident that you’ll be able to fly from here to San Francisco on an aircraft with something like a gas turbine burning hydrogen, but there’s no way that we’re going to be doing that in the next 15 years,” he said at Reuters’ Impact conference on Tuesday.
Produced from the likes of solid waste, cooking oil and food scraps, SAFs reduce CO2 by 80 per cent over the fuel’s lifecycle and are considered the main path towards sustainability by most industry stakeholders.
Just last week, airline veteran Willie Walsh called on governments to incentivise SAF production.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – of which Walsh is director general – SAF production should be around 449 billion litres to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Currently, only 125 million litres were produced per year.
“We [airlines] are buying every single drop of sustainable aviation fuel that we can get our hands on,” Walsh said last Tuesday.
An example of this is Easyjet announcing last Monday it had already contracted SAFs from suppliers for the next five years.
“What really needs to happen is governments incentivising the production of sustainable aviation fuel,” he added.