Net-zero push could lead to defense forces adopting sustainable aviation fuels, says GlobalData

The world’s focus on achieving net zero, a key point reiterated at COP26, may give sustainable alternative fuels (SAFs) the financial push needed for mass uptake within civil aviation, according to GlobalData. The leading data and analytics company notes that this will then likely spill over into the defense industry.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in Aerospace and Defense – Thematic Research’, notes that plane makers have made very public commitments around SAFs, which many people and organizations will be tracking closely.

Madeline Wild, Associate Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “In aerospace and defense, the current production of alternative fuels is minimal. The problem is that it takes time, investment, technology, and a change in policy to swap out a fuel as ubiquitous as kerosene. Sustainable aviation drop-in fuels* are likely to be the most attainable form of sustainable aircraft propulsion to be used in the near future, but the acute lack of funding has prevented widescale military uptake in the past. This will only change if COP26 serves its purpose and places a firm spotlight on ESG issues and, indeed, promotes action.”

GlobalData’s report also highlights electric propulsion and hydrogen power as two other sustainable practices that can be adopted by global armed forces.

Wild continues: “Issues with infrastructure hinder the uptake of electric propulsion and hydrogen power. Substantial infrastructure and technological changes are needed before these can be thoroughly implemented in aircraft design. For example, electric aircraft would need new propulsion systems and charging infrastructure, while hydrogen aircraft require a suitable infrastructure for green hydrogen production and fuel transportation.

“More than 40 countries have agreed to phase out coal power worldwide, and more than 20 countries have additionally agreed to stop funding fossil fuels by the end of 2022. This will divert $8bn to investment in clean energy, some of which will likely be SAFs.”

*Fuel that can be used in aircraft engines in place of, or mixed with, jet fuel

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