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Major Corporations Unite to Invest $200 Million in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Certificates

Image Credit: airBP

Today, the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA), boasting members such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, and United Airlines, has unveiled a flurry of aviation fuel certificate purchase agreements, marking a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable aviation solutions.

This initiative has seen a coalition of leading consultancies, banks, technology, and transportation firms band together to broker what is touted as the "largest ever" collection of deals aimed at procuring "high-integrity" sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) certificates. The goal? To mitigate their transportation emissions and advance the transition towards greener aviation practices.

Over the past half-decade, under the stewardship of US non-profits RMI and the Environmental Defense Fund, the SABA members have inked a series of multi-year agreements with aviation firms and SAF producers. These agreements are pivotal in fostering the global development and widespread adoption of lower-carbon aviation fuels.

In a remarkable display of commitment, companies within the Alliance have allocated nearly $200 million towards procuring SAF certificates, equating to approximately 50 million gallons of "high integrity" lower-carbon jet fuels, as reported by SABA.

The impact of these efforts is profound. The collective commitment of SABA members translates to the abatement of around 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, a figure akin to the carbon footprint generated by 3,000 fully loaded passenger flights from New York City to London.

This multi-year collaboration involves the active participation of nearly 20 business aviation customers, four fuel providers, and three airlines. SABA asserts that this robust corporate demand underscores the potential of promising fuels in decarbonizing the aviation sector, signaling a pivotal step towards a sustainable future for air travel.

"This SABA procurement shows the power of prominent global companies demanding high-integrity sustainable aviation fuels," said Elizabeth Sturcken, managing director at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"High-integrity sustainable aviation fuels are available right now, and we must work to scale their production to decarbonise air travel rapidly. SABA plays a critical role in helping companies identify and purchase the highest-integrity sustainable aviation fuels to accelerate progress toward net zero goals."

Established in 2021 by a consortium of US airlines, including Amazon Air, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and United Airlines, the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) has evolved into a formidable coalition, boasting an impressive roster of corporate heavyweights. Since its inception, SABA has attracted prominent members such as Meta (formerly Facebook), Bank of America, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Netflix.

The Alliance's primary objective is to foster collaborative efforts to cultivate the market for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These fuels, predominantly derived from biofuels sourced from plant or waste materials and synthetic power-to-liquid e-fuels crafted from renewable electricity and CO2, have been the focus of the latest round of multi-year deals unveiled by SABA today.

Regarded as a viable lower-carbon alternative to conventional kerosene fossil fuels, SAF holds promise for expedited scalability in the short to medium term, outpacing nascent technologies such as electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft.

SAF accounts for a mere 0.5 percent of aviation fuels worldwide and is generally priced higher than standard jet fuel. Despite these challenges, SAF has demonstrated its potential to reduce carbon emissions from flights by approximately 80 percent when used as a complete replacement for kerosene.

The influx of new participants in the latest wave of SABA deals underscores the Alliance's pivotal role in lowering entry barriers and stimulating demand for SAF.

Corporate travelers can offset their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing SAF certificates, facilitating investment in SAF production without direct utilization.

Each SAF certificate corresponds to actual fuel production and is authenticated through SABA's digital registry, ensuring transparency, auditability, and integrity.

Building upon the success of its pilot procurement round last year, which facilitated the purchase of SAF certificates for nearly 850,000 gallons of various SAF types, SABA acknowledges the burgeoning demand for SAF but highlights existing supply limitations.

To address this gap, SABA is exploring innovative approaches, including collective procurement processes integrating forward-looking agreements for novel fuel technologies alongside mechanisms for ongoing procurement of commercially available SAF. Through such initiatives, SABA aims to catalyze the expansion of the SAF market and accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation practices.

"The only way to drive structural change in hard-to-abate sectors like aviation is to shake up existing business models," said Kim Carnahan, head of SABA's secretariat and CEO of Neoteric Energy and Climate consultancy. "The recent announcement from the Science Based Targets Initiative opening the door to the use of market-based approaches to address Scope 3 emissions only elevates the importance of SABA's book and claim system as an innovative and environmentally robust avenue for customers to drive aviation decarbonisation."

In a complementary development, Jet2, the airline giant, unveiled its strategy to incorporate sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) into its operations. Yesterday's announcement disclosed Jet2's intention to utilize a one percent blend of SAF to power a portion of its flights departing from London's Stansted Airport throughout the year.

This initiative builds upon the firm's recent declaration, made last month, regarding its plans to introduce a comparable share of SAF in selected flights departing from Bristol Airport. Consequently, Jet2 anticipates procuring approximately 1,000 tonnes of SAF across the two airports in 2024.

"We see SAF as critical in helping the industry decarbonise, and as well as doing this, we can use it to ensure our operations are ready for SAF to uptake both now and in the future when we anticipate its use will grow materially," said Steve Heapy, Jet2's CEO. "We very much see one percent as the starting point, and we want to grow this over the coming years."


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