• Although the aviation community has dedicated itself to zero emissions, a lack of SAF supplies are hampering efforts. (Neste)
    Although the aviation community has dedicated itself to zero emissions, a lack of SAF supplies are hampering efforts. (Neste)

The Federal Government finalised the Terms of Reference and membership of the Australian Jet Zero Council this week, simultaneously announcing a $30 million investment in a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry in Australia.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King first discussed setting up a Jet Zero council at Avalon in February with the aim of reducing carbon emissions in the aviation industry.

The council members have been drawn from across the aviation industry and include Qantas, Rex, Virgin Australia, Brisbane Airport, BP, the CSIRO, the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) and the Department of Defence.

"Aviation is critical to our nation’s way of life, particularly in our regions," Minister King said. "It connects families, friends and communities with each other, links businesses to markets, and underpins industries that are vital to our economy.

"Through the council, we will work with the aviation industry to identify opportunities to decarbonise the sector, and opportunities for industry and government to collaborate in achieving emissions reduction targets, including through sustainable aviation fuels and emerging technology.

"We know that industry leadership will be a fundamental driver of the aviation sector’s transition to net zero."

Council members will be appointed for up to two years and the council itself will meet at least twice a year, with an aim to: 

  • establish and implement a forward work plan to target the council’s activities and provision of advice to government
  • act as a key facilitator and co-ordinator between government, industry and the broader community to support education efforts, timely sharing of information and data and to promote appropriate collaboration on decarbonisation initiatives
  • promote and communicate better practice
  • promote and, where appropriate, support the coordination of industry efforts on of the development and uptake of SAF and other clean aviation technologies, having regard to potential commercial sensitivities associated with these efforts.

Almost simultaneously, the ALP Federal Government announced a $30 million investment by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in establishing a domestic SAF industry using agricultural feedstock. The investment takes the form of a grant program due to open in July.

In a 2021 study, ARENA showed that a local SAF industry could contribute $10 billion to the economy by 2030 and create 26,000 new jobs.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said that SAF presented a huge opportunity for Australian industry.

“The world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity, and this is true for the aviation industry which is looking to reduce emissions – a homegrown sustainable aviation fuels industry could create more than 7400 jobs by 2030, most of them in regional areas,” he said.

“Australia’s strong agricultural sector means we could be a global leader by scaling up domestic production of renewable fuel for exports, which could help reduce global aviation emissions significantly.

“This investment means the beginning of airlines being able to source their fuel from a variety of sources and decrease our dependence on importing fuels from overseas."

The international aviation industry has committed itself to zero carbon emissions by 2050, with SAF seen as an important factor in achieving that goal, but production levels and the cost of SAF compared to fossil fuels are proving difficult hurdles to leap.

“With our population spread across an entire continent, aviation is often the only viable option for freight and passenger transport, and a domestic SAF industry can help transition the domestic industry,” Minister King said.

“And with enormous volumes of tallow and canola oil currently shipped offshore due to attractive incentives offered by other governments, there is huge potential for Australia to become a sustainable fuels powerhouse.

“The outcomes of the ARENA-backed projects could have huge implications for regional Australia, and we will be closely following them as a government.”

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