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How Energy Web is helping the Aviation sector reach Net Zero

Energy Web is working with Shell on Avelia, a digital platform for scaling Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), one of the most promising new technologies for reaching net zero in the aviation sector.

Zug, Switzerland — 27 October 2022 — All areas of the economy need to reach net zero in the coming decades. This will be much more straightforward for some sectors than others. In many cases, the deciding factor will be the speed at which technologies develop.

One way of thinking about large-scale decarbonization is as a triangle with three points, all three of which need to be spoken for to drive change at pace:

For the aviation sector, governments around the world made a major step last month towards evidencing the middle of these three points. At the assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the air transport division of the United Nations, 184 countries signed a landmark treaty agreeing to target net zero carbon emissions for air transport by 2050.

The sector will require major changes to hit this long-term goal in the time allotted, from all actors in the industry, and progress has to start now. Aviation is currently responsible for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. With the total number of passengers globally expected to continue growing as flights become more accessible, this is only set to increase.

Flying, however, has typically been a difficult area for emissions reductions, primarily because the technologies simply don’t yet exist to completely replace the kerosene-powered jet engines which are responsible for emissions.

Manufacturers and engineers are working hard on this central problem. Airbus’ ZEROe concept aircraft explore hydrogen-powered propulsion for zero-emission flight. And United will start flying Heart’s 19-seat ES-19 electric aircraft in 2026 for short-hop journeys.

But these aircraft and the associated infrastructure for fuelling and charging may be decades off from widespread use. And for greater uptake for longer-ranges, electric aircraft will require major battery technology improvements.

Over the past decades, much improvement has come from advances in flight efficiency through improvements to aerodynamics, engines, weight distribution, and routing.

But what goes in the engines is proving to be just as important. One of the most promising areas for emissions reductions right now is Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). SAF is a fuel which can be mixed with regular jet fuel and be used without having to modify the jet engine, and is made of renewable sources such as plant or animal material — including cooking oil, urban and agricultural waste, and even algae.

Over the lifecycle of an aircraft, it can reduce emissions by up to 80%, and has already been successfully deployed by some industry actors, with around 450,000 flights having already used it. It’s a great example of a technology which, if supported correctly, can be worked seamlessly into existing operations to cut emissions.

There are problems though. SAF is currently much more expensive than traditional jet fuel — often double the price. For all the net zero goodwill, airlines simply can’t operate without workable costs.

In addition to the massive demand from airlines for this fuel, it’s also scarce. In 2021, 100 million litres of SAF were produced — against the global aviation’s typical yearly usage of 360 billion litres of jet fuel, accounting for less than 0.03% of industry consumption.

We’re working with Shell, one of the largest energy companies in the world and a founding member of Energy Web, as well as Accenture and American Express, on a blockchain powered book-and-claim solution that provides fully traceable SAF purchases, to help scale SAF.

It works like this: corporate travelers use Avelia’s book-and-claim system to purchase a share of SAF for the flight they are taking. If SAF isn’t available on that flight, then the total equivalent SAF paid for is used by another flight — contributing to the overall demand for the fuel, and allowing travelers to claim a purchase. The environmental benefits of this purchase are then recorded in the company’s favor.

This has benefits for everyone. Airlines access the buying power of corporations for SAF needs, while companies can use the traceable attributes Avelia provides to meet their own sustainability targets, and one day include them as part of corporate reporting.

The ultimate goal of Avelia is to create and evidence the demand necessary to help SAF to scale up. By creating a straightforward and transparent way to purchase SAF, we send clear buying signals to the market, giving SAF suppliers the confidence to invest in ramping up production.

At the same time, by furthering investment in production, Avelia will help to lower the price of SAF for all airlines. In this way, we’re contributing to the third point on the decarbonization triangle above: by facilitating the economic drivers needed to make SAF more accessible, we’re aiming to turbocharge its uptake.

Green Proofs, which you can read more about here, is our solution for registering and tracking low-carbon products — like SAF — in a traceable, efficient manner, helping to validate proof of ownership and environmental benefit for corporate customers.

In 2022, SAF saw $17.0 Billion in forward purchase agreements — fantastic progress. But we need a lot more. With Avelia, we’re hoping to help share the costs of SAF across companies, airlines and travellers, to help the SAF industry — and aviation’s net zero transition — to take off.
You can visit Avelia’s website here to see more.

About Energy Web
Energy Web is a global non-profit accelerating the clean energy transition by developing open-source technology solutions for energy systems. Our enterprise-grade solutions improve coordination across complex energy markets, unlocking the full potential of clean, distributed energy resources for businesses, grid operators, and customers.

Our solutions for enterprise asset management, data exchange, and Green Proofs, our tool for registering and tracking low-carbon products, are underpinned by the Energy Web Chain, the world’s first public blockchain tailored to the energy sector. The Energy Web ecosystem comprises leading utilities, renewable energy developers, grid operators, corporate energy buyers, automotive, IoT, telecommunications leaders, and more.

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EW is a global, member-driven nonprofit accelerating a low-carbon electricity system through open-source, decentralized, digital technologies.