Transport secretary rules out price support for SAF before next election

The government has conceded it will not pass legislation to boost production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as an alternative to kerosene before the next general election.

Transport secretary Mark Harper admitted there would be no price support mechanism to mitigate the risks of investment in SAF without primary legislation when he spoke at the Airlines 2023 Conference in London on Monday.

Harper told aviation industry leaders, who are demanding the government establish a minimum-price guarantee mechanism to encourage investment in SAF: “We are listening.”

He insisted: “We’ll consult soon on a revenue-certainty mechanism. There is a legal requirement to consult on that. We’ll do that by April. But it will need primary legislation [to establish a mechanism] and that won’t happen this side of a general election.”

Harper argued: “There is a discussion globally about revenue-certainty mechanisms. We need a wider conversation with the industry on what that would look like.”

“We want to make sure there is a significant UK SAF industry. We’re talking to industry and investors. But there is not clarity about the sort of mechanism. There are a range of views and we want to work out the right answer.”

Harper hailed Virgin Atlantic’s plans to operate the first 100% SAF flight across the Atlantic from Heathrow to New York next week as “historic” and “a new chapter”, saying: “It will chart a course toward the future of flying.

And he insisted: “We are on track to have five SAF plants in production. We created a mandate for 5% SAF by 2025 and 10% by 2030. We’re in line to do that.”

“The first transatlantic flight powered completely by sustainable aviation fuel could unlock the future of aviation.”

The transport secretary emphatically ruled out any limits on future flying, saying: “There are those who think we should deal with sustainability by reducing the ability of people to fly. That is not the view of this government.

“We want to enable more people to fly.

Labour shadow aviation minister Mike Kane told the conference: “The only game in town for long-haul and transatlantic flights is SAF. I’ve heard and understood.

“I’m aware of the legislative support your industry is asking for. Achieving our own supplies of SAF could transform the de-industrialised parts of our country. We don’t want to have to import that fuel.

“I share your frustrations with this government.”

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