British ambitions to produce greener jet fuel could founder without more government financial support, airlines warn.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade organization Airlines UK, said sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) manufacturing plants will not be built unless manufacturers believe they will see a return on their investment.
He urged ministers to consider introducing a pricing mechanism for SAF as it is currently several times more expensive to produce than conventional jet fuel.
The UK has a target of having at least five commercial scale SAF plants built in the UK by 2025.
The Government has invested money in developing the sites and has proposed that airlines operating in the UK must ensure at least 10% of their jet fuel is SAF by 2030.
“Despite the proposed mandate, despite the funds already announced, we do not have any SAF in this country,” Mr Alderslade told reporters at travel trade organization Abta’s annual meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco.
“All the investment community and producers are telling us is without that certainty of price, we’re not going to get these five plants up and running.
“They want to make sure they get a return on the money invested.
“It comes from the price.
“Ultimately, they want to make sure that the price they get from airlines for a nascent product is a solid return.”
Made from sustainable sources such as agricultural waste and used cooking oil, SAF reduces CO2 emissions by 80% compared to kerosene.
It can be blended with up to 50% standard aviation fuel.
Mr Alderslade expressed concerns that ministers might be content to import SAF rather than produce it domestically.
He said: “The concern is that they’re banding together around this idea that we can’t win at everything, the US is pushing ahead, there are other parts of Europe looking at SAF, we’re just going to import everything.”
Importing SAF would mean UK airlines “abandoning” jobs and investment and would be “risky” in terms of price volatility and deliveries, Mr Alderslade warned.
He added that making SAF is critical to greener flying.
“For long-haul flights, it’s the only game in town right now,” he stressed.
“From today’s perspective, long-haul flights cannot be decarbonized without SAF.”
Abta CEO Mark Tanzer added to the call for the government to “incentivize the development of low-carbon fuels”.
He said: “The government’s growth agenda demands it and the alternative of simply taxing emissions will thwart its own ambitions.”
James Thornton, chief executive of global holiday company Intrepid Travel, said investing in renewable energy sources should be a priority for the UK.
He said: “True decarbonization is connected to transport.