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Aviation

The case for biofuels

Jonas Lindmark of the Swedish Energy Agency works with biofuel issues in general, and fuel for aircraft in particular.

What is your thinking with regard to the future for aviation fuel?
As things look at the moment, our job is to work on the transition to renewable energy in all sectors – and this includes aviation. We are looking at issues such as what will it take to persuade airlines to switch to renewable fuels? This can be biofuel, or electric power to a certain extent. How­ever, as there are no specific political goals related to aviation, it’s not very clear as to what needs to happen and how quickly.

Jonas Lindmark på Energimyndigheten jobbar just nu med ett större uppdrag de fått kring forskningsstöd för förnybara flygbränslen.

What’s needed?
If the politicians want something to happen, we will probably need a stronger driving force than consumer interest alone. This could be structured in different ways. Maria Wetterstrand [former spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party] has been tasked by the government with looking at how some kind of regulatory framework could be structured to hasten development. Her investigation is due to be completed in March next year. 

What do you think the future holds for biofuels?
My feeling is that if something is going to happen for biofuels within aviation, things will have to happen in other sectors too. An industry must be built around biofuels.

What incentives do you envisage to persuade companies to produce biofuel for aircraft?
Right now, anyone wanting to produce biofuel will find the incentives are pretty feeble. There’s more happening within road transportation, where new rules came into force from 1 July. There, it’s more specific and there is a market. Within aviation, it’s still early days – companies are testing their way forwards, but nobody has any really significant volumes.

Are more companies needed?
What we need is for companies with biofuel know-how to take an interest in the aviation market. A deciding factor will be how high the biofuel cost will be. How much more expensive is difficult to say, as is what proportion of these costs should be passed on to increase airline ticket prices. This is a difficult question and very much a political issue. How much do they want to put a brake on air travel growth? A tax on flights has been introduced, which signals a wish to slow this growth.

What can the government do to hasten development towards a more climate-friendly aviation industry?
That is the really difficult question, as the airline sector does not operate on a national market. Some kind of instrument is needed that affects all companies without distorting competition.

I have the impression that nobody is prepared to accept a cost for more expensive fuel if this adversely affects their competitiveness. For example, within road transport, everyone is being forced to include an increased proportion of renewable fuel in the fuel mix, but the fact that aviation is also a global issue makes it more complicated. What will happen between Swedish, Danish and Norwegian companies when the rules are determined in each respective country?”

Last edited: September 4, 2018

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