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Aviation leaders lobby UK government for investment in hydrogen fuel

Aviation leaders lobby UK government for investment in hydrogen fuel
UK airlines are already making plans to deliver hydrogen-powered aircraft (Image credit: Savvapanf Photo/Adobe Stock)

An aviation industry group is calling on the UK government to invest in hydrogen to ensure hydrogen-powered flights “become a reality”.

The Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance, whose members include Airbus, easyJet and Rolls-Royce, said it wants to ensure the UK is a global leader in the development of hydrogen-fuelled flight.

Yesterday the group released a report outlining the steps and timeline the UK government and industry “needs to follow” to ensure hydrogen becomes an alternative fuel as aviation continues to seek routes to decarbonisation.

HIA is urging ministers to help fund the development of the technology which offers the possibility of flying with zero emissions in the coming decades. But today it is commercially unproven.

The group was formed in September last year to position the UK at the forefront of hydrogen-powered flying.

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet and first chair of HIA, said: “It’s without doubt that the UK is well placed to be a global leader in hydrogen – but the opportunity will be gone if we do not act now to build on all the great work that has already been done.

“The breakthroughs in hydrogen-powered technology happening across the UK are truly astonishing but these advances will be inconsequential if we fail to complement them with the appropriate skills, infrastructure, investment and regulation needed to support hydrogen aviation.

“HIA’s Milestone Delivery Report outlines the critical steps and the timeframe needed to do this and if followed, not only will it create significant wealth, jobs and prosperity across industry and across the UK, it will be a vital component in decarbonising the aviation sector.”

The report outlines the importance of research and development (R&D) programmes, a “hydrogen-ready” Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to lead on certification and regulation, and building of necessary infrastructure to accommodate the alternative fuel.

It also emphasises the need for industry incentives to “get the sector over the hurdle of transition costs and investment”, plans for hydrogen production capacity, and the establishment of a new “skillforce” to support the transition to hydrogen-powered flight.

Hydrogen in Aviation believes this new sector will bring “huge” social and economic benefits, including creating thousands of new jobs.

It estimates hydrogen could generate an additional £34bn for the UK every year.

Dave Lees, CEO of Bristol Airport, which is a member of HIA, said: “Having hydrogen refuelling infrastructure at airports, operated by a skilled workforce, is critical to the success of zero emissions flight.

“Leaders such as Bristol Airport stand ready to work with industry, government and regulators to begin the first commercial hydrogen flights within this decade.

“We can play our part to support the UK to seize the economic and social opportunities of zero emission flight.”

Mark Bentall, head of research and technology at Airbus, added that “beyond the aircraft, we have to prepare people, policy and infrastructure to build a world-leading hydrogen aviation economy in the UK”.

Airlines are already making plans to operate their aircraft with hydrogen.

The Scottish regional carrier Loganair announced a new partnership with Cranfield University in January to deliver hydrogen-electric aircraft by 2027.

Andy Smith, head of sustainability strategy at Loganair, spoke previously with ARGS about how the airline is looking to hydrogen and electric alternatives as a way of decarbonising its operations.