Jet Zero consultation – what it says on “sustainable aviation fuels” (spoiler…crazy over-optimism)

The DfT’s consultation (ends 8th September) on reducing aviation carbon emissions, “Jet Zero” places a lot of faith in finding novel, low carbon fuels, so people can continue to fly as much as they want. These are called “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” (SAF). The consultation says SAF “could play a key role in decarbonising aviation, whilst also representing an industrial leadership opportunity for the UK.” The economic opportunity aspect, and producing jobs, is key for the DfT.  They say “Many experts view SAF as the only alternative for long-haul flights up to 2050, which are the flights with the biggest climate impact.” The DfT is hoping SAF could “result in over 70% CO2 emissions saving on a lifecycle basis and could deliver net zero emissions with the addition of greenhouse gas removal technologies.” SAF would either be biogenic, non-biogenic (from wastes) or made using zero-carbon electricity.  There are huge problems, glossed over by the consultation. A key problem is that “there is currently no comprehensive global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability. The UK is therefore active at ICAO in negotiating for a full set of sustainability criteria for SAF.” The DfT “will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake.”


The Jet Zero consultation

“Achieving net zero aviation by 2050”

From:   Department for TransportPublished14 July 2021

Some extracts of the text relating to Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

P 26 – 29

Sustainable aviation fuels could play a key role in decarbonising aviation, whilst also representing an industrial leadership opportunity for the UK.

3.13 As well as improving the efficiency of aircraft, we need to reduce the climate impact of the fuels that they use.

3.14 SAF are a ‘drop in’ option, meaning they can be blended into fossil-based aviation fuel and used in existing aircraft without modification and therefore could deliver both medium- and long-term CO2 emissions savings.
Many experts view SAF as the only alternative for longhaul flights up to 2050, which are the flights with the biggest climate impact; it is estimated that flights greater than 5,000km (equivalent to a flight from London to Bahrain), which make up just 10% of overall flights, are responsible for over 60% of UK aviation emissions.27

3.15 When compared to conventional fossil aviation fuel, SAF produced from feedstocks with strong sustainability credentials can result in over 70% CO2 emissions saving on a lifecycle basis28 and could deliver net zero emissions with the addition of greenhouse gas removal technologies. Most SAF also emit less soot and particulate matter compared with conventional fossil jet fuel which is expected to reduce non-CO2 climate impacts.

What are SAF?

“SAF” are low carbon alternatives to conventional, fossil-derived, aviation fuel – ‘drop in equivalents’ that present similar characteristics to conventional jet fuel. Generally, SAF
can be produced from three types of feedstock:

• Biomass: this includes biogenic waste, e.g. used cooking oil.
• Non-biogenic waste: e.g. unrecyclable plastics or waste fossil gases from industry.
• CO2 + green hydrogen: zero-carbon electricity is used to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis; hydrogen then reacts with CO2 captured from the air or waste industrial exhaust streams to produce a synthetic fuel. This process is known as Power-to-liquid (PtL).

The benefits of sustainable aviation fuel 29

A UK SAF industry could generate between £700m–£1.6bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) per year.

Creating between 5,000–11,000 green jobs.

Helping the UK to ‘level up’ and not rely on oil imports, with production facilities across the whole of the UK.

The Jet Zero Council SAF Delivery Group has been set up for government and industry
to work together to establish UK SAF production facilities and accelerate the delivery of the fuel to market. It is focused on the development of a UK SAF mandate, the commercialisation of the sector, and the technologies and feedstocks that the UK
should prioritise.

3.17 SAF supply is already rewarded through the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) which provides tradeable certificates for every litre of certain sustainable fuels used for aviation. The Government has also provided grant funding
to businesses through our Advanced Biofuel Demonstration Competition (2014) and Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (2017), putting the UK in a strong position to develop advanced fuels capable of decarbonising harder-to-decarbonise sectors. We are now building on this ambition through the Green Fuels, Green Skies competition which is providing £15m in 2021-22 to support the early development of first-of-a-kind commercial SAF plants in the UK.

3.18 Our strategy will build on this commitment. We are continuing to develop plans for a SAF clearing house and will shortly consult on a UK SAF blending mandate to kickstart the market which could enable greater SAF uptake than is within the CCC’s Balanced Pathway. We are keen to maximise the environmental and industrial opportunities
that SAF offer and, in the upcoming months, we will also consider whether further innovative policy mechanisms are needed to provide greater confidence to UK SAF producers.

3.19 At the time of writing there is currently no comprehensive global regulatory standard for SAF sustainability. The UK is therefore active at ICAO in negotiating for a full set of sustainability criteria for SAF that will underpin its global deployment. At the same time, we recognise that a global ambition for future SAF deployment may help to give certainty to the global industry and avoid some of the challenges associated with states acting alone.
Any such goal would need to be underpinned by strong sustainability criteria.

3.20 Our vision is to scale up SAF over the coming years, such that out to 2050 they are primarily used on flights that may be more challenging to conduct by zero emission aircraft – most likely the long-haul flights that are responsible for the bulk of emissions – whilst ensuring that the UK secures the huge economic prize on offer: reducing dependence on imported oil and creating new green jobs across the UK.

Rolls-Royce case study

As part of their ATI Programme project
‘SIRUS’, supported with a £16m
government grant, Rolls-Royce have
undertaken engine ground tests using
100% SAF. Covering emissions, efficiency,
noise and operability, Rolls-Royce aim
to make all their civil aero-engines in
production compatible with 100% SAF by
2023, double the current maximum blend
of 50%. This will allow SAF to contribute
further to our net zero commitment and
places Rolls-Royce and the UK at the
forefront of this increasingly important field.

Our existing policy commitments:

• We will shortly consult on a UK SAF mandate setting out our level of ambition for future SAF uptake and defining the scope, technology, compliance and reporting implications underpinned by it.

• We have formed the Clean Skies for Tomorrow SAF Ambassadors group, which will develop, pilot and promote industry-led policy proposals for national SAF policies,
ahead of COP26.

• We will continue to engage SAF stakeholders through the Jet Zero Council SAF Delivery Group, to ensure future SAF policy is robust.

• We have consulted on the possibility of expanding the RTFO to reward recycled carbon fuels (RCF) which are produced from fossil wastes that cannot be avoided, reused or recycled.

• We are supporting the development of SAF through the Green Fuel, Green Skies competition, through which companies will be able to bid for a share of £15 million
in 2021-22 to kickstart the development of first-of-a-kind production plants in the UK. Successful projects are expected to be announced in summer 2021.

• We will establish a SAF clearing house to enable early stage aviation fuel testing as an essential capability to support our decarbonisation agenda.

Our new policy proposals:

• We will consider whether further policies are needed to provide SAF producers with greater confidence and encourage UK production.

• We will continue to negotiate in ICAO for comprehensive SAF sustainability standards and to work towards a future global SAF objective. We will also work with smaller groups of states to coordinate on SAF policies where this can be complementary to ICAO’s work.

• We will look at the feasibility of using SAF on UK Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes.

• Alongside the five-year reviews of this strategy, we will undertake a SAF-specific review by 2030, once the supportive policy framework is in place, and SAF production is being scaled up, and use this to confirm a SAF trajectory to 2050.

• We will work across government to pioneer the accelerated procurement and use of SAF.


7. Do you agree or disagree with the overall approach for the development and uptake of SAF in the UK?

8. What further measures are needed to support the development of a globally competitive UK SAF industry and increase SAF usage?



The Jet Zero consultation

“Achieving net zero aviation by 2050”


Our vision for the aviation sector to reach net zero aviation, or jet zero, by 2050.

This consultation closes at 

Consultation description

Sets out our proposed approach and principles to reach net zero aviation by 2050.

Our ambition is to:

  • decarbonise aviation in a way that preserves the benefits of air travel
  • maximise the opportunities that decarbonisation can bring

We are proposing a suite of policies to support industry to reduce and, where possible, eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from aviation. These policies span 5 different measures that aim to:

  • improve the efficiency of our aviation system
  • accelerate the development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels
  • support the development of zero emission flight
  • ensure we use markets to drive down emissions in the most cost-effective way
  • influence the behaviour of consumers

The consultation will inform the final jet zero strategy.


Jet Zero Consultation

A consultation on our strategy for net zero aviation

Respond online     or  Complete a response form and either Email to:

Write to:

Aviation Decarbonisation Division
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London  SW1P 4DR

See earlier:

Unconvincing airline hype about large future use of so called “sustainable aviation fuels”

Airlines are falling over each other, to say how much “Sustainable Aviation Fuel” (SAF) they plan to use in future, and how this will greatly increase their carbon emissions. Ryanair says it will use 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG says it will use 10% by 2030; easyJet says they will use SAF in the short term, but “we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem.”  According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050. There is disagreement between low cost, short haul airlines and those flying longer routes, about whether SAF fuel quotas should apply to all flights, not only short haul. Long-haul air services departing European airports accounted for 48% of CO2 emissions from all operations in 2019, while making up just 6% of flights, according to Eurocontrol data.  It is unclear what all this SAF is going to be made from. One of the very few fuels thought to genuinely be low carbon, up to now, has been used cooking oil. But it has been revealed that there is considerable fraud, with virgin palm oil (causing deforestation) being passed off as used.