Without green hydrogen policy, shipping and aviation will never get to zero emissions

All pathways to truly sustainable fuels for the shipping and aviation sectors require green hydrogen (produced from renewables), with some of them requiring carbon dioxide from sustainable sources like direct air capture (DAC), according to a report released today by the SASHA Coalition, facilitated by Opportunity Green. It reveals that there is a lack of policy supporting the production of green hydrogen, which is slowing down demand and discouraging investment, creating a “Green Hydrogen Gap”.

The report is being launched to coincide with International Shipping Week, where future fuel mix is a hot topic of debate under this year’s theme of decarbonisation. It outlines how governments should prioritise the use of hydrogen and DAC in the aviation and shipping sectors because they lack decent alternatives, and also highlights the need for policy to ensure that these solutions can be rolled out at scale.

While first-mover ambitious companies can step forward voluntarily to send clear, unambiguous and urgent demand signals to green hydrogen producers, their actions will always be in isolation without the backing of policymakers.

‘The Green Hydrogen Gap’ report by Opportunity Green draws on exclusive research by Arup and looks at the policy landscape of green hydrogen and DAC in the UK and the EU. It finds that hydrogen production is behind on projections of where it needs to be to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement and that this is due to a lack of guaranteed demand across the board. The latest environmental policies from both the EU and the UK focus more on supporting biofuels and/or the use of gas (liquefied natural gas) in aviation and shipping respectively, rather than ensuring that green hydrogen – required for full decarbonisation – is prioritised for aviation and shipping.

Aoife O’Leary, CEO of Opportunity Green and Director of the SASHA Coalition, says:

“There is a worrying delay in green hydrogen production, which means that if aviation and shipping don’t make their case clearly and loudly now, they won’t have access to fuels that will truly lead to sustainable decarbonisation. Governments are already prioritising other industries for hydrogen, so without stronger policy, aviation and shipping will be overlooked.”

Kerosene and Heavy Fuel Oil currently meet the bulk of fuel demand for the marine and aviation industries, and it’s estimated that the total consumption of marine fuels account for around 5% of global oil demand.

Sally Prickett, Director of Hydrogen, CCUS and New Fuels in Arup’s Advisory team says:

“Clearly, shipping and aviation will be unable to decarbonise at the scale and pace required without alternative fuels. It’s unlikely that there will be a ‘one solution fits all’ fuel for these sectors, but one thing this research tells us is that green hydrogen will play a critical role in their decarbonisation as a feedstock for the majority of sustainable fuel pathways. Without green hydrogen, these sectors will struggle to find satisfactory zero emissions solutions.”

Policy signals are supporting the uptake of hydrogen-derived fuels at both a UK and EU level, however, these are not on the scale that’s needed to meet Paris targets and are just one component that will drive the adoption of hydrogen-derived fuels. Policymakers must recognise that green hydrogen will continue to be in limited supply in the coming decades and should therefore be targeted towards sectors – such as shipping and aviation – that have no more efficient routes to decarbonisation.

Scott Pendry, Director of External Relations at zero emission aircraft developer Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, says:

“This report demonstrates that there is no path to a climate neutral aviation system that does not involve hydrogen on a large scale: whether that be as an energy source itself, or as a feedstock for the sustainable aviation fuels of the future. Both government and industry must now start addressing the question of how to scale the production, storage and use of green hydrogen for both SAF and hydrogen aircraft propulsion.”

Nuala Doyle, Policy Officer at the SASHA Coalition, concludes:

“Both shipping and aviation have come under increasing scrutiny for their climate impact, resulting in additional regulation at international, regional and national levels. And regulation will only get stricter over time as the climate crisis worsens.

“We know that the fuels that will fully decarbonise both sectors require green hydrogen and direct air capture. However, current regulations do little to incentivise these – instead the regulations encourage fuels that either are not scalable or are still fossil fuels. Without regulation that aligns with, and incentivises, the goal of zero emissions, companies may find they end up with stranded assets from investment in a fuel that is no longer acceptable to use.”
Source: SASHA Coalition

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