Aviation Climate Taskforce and National Renewable Energy Laboratory Partner on Sustainable Aviation

Airliner backlit by sun, sepia toned

by | Mar 13, 2024

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Aviation Climate Taskforce, Inc. (ACT) have announced a strategic partnership through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance their collaborative efforts in advancing sustainable aviation technologies. This partnership aims to leverage both organizations’ strengths to accelerate research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) efforts in the aviation sector.

Launching the SAFARI Initiative: A Leap Toward Sustainable Flight

ACT, an organization with a philanthropic mission dedicated to transforming the future of eco-friendly flight, has introduced its latest project, the Systemic Approaches for Aviation Research Initiative (SAFARI). As the leading entity of SAFARI, ACT is set to expand membership and manage the initiative, utilizing NREL’s superior systems analysis and technological expertise. This collaboration will unite researchers from various fields to form a unified and purpose-driven RDD&D network.

Doug Arent, NREL’s Executive Director of Strategic Public-Private Partnerships, emphasized that “Decarbonizing aviation demands unprecedented collaboration to de-risk dynamic supply chains and rapidly deploy new energy technologies. NREL is committed to asking the right research questions, wielding the best tools for data-driven answers, and forming partnerships to accelerate existing federal, state, and industry programs and collaboration.”

With a long-standing history of leadership in clean energy innovation, NREL’s sustainable aviation initiative focuses on developing comprehensive decarbonization strategies. These strategies aim to cover all aspects of the aviation energy ecosystem, including the development of net-zero-carbon energy sources, infrastructure optimization, and advancements in aircraft propulsion technologies.

The Crucial Role of Collaborative Efforts in Aviation Decarbonization

The collaboration between ACT and NREL will explore a broad range of research areas, such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), hydrogen, electric propulsion, and the systemic interdependencies of the energy supply chain. These efforts are crucial for enhancing operational resilience, optimizing infrastructure, and improving aircraft efficiency.

Tom Light, CEO of ACT, addressed the financial hurdles faced by the aviation sector in achieving decarbonization. He underscored the necessity of diversifying funding sources, including public, private, and philanthropic contributions, to support these ambitious goals. ACT aims to expand its coalition to include stakeholders from all segments of the aviation industry.

The aviation industry, accountable for a significant portion of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, is under pressure to reduce its environmental footprint. With passenger numbers expected to double by 2037, the urgency to adopt sustainable practices is more critical than ever. While future technologies like electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft hold promise, SAF currently offers a practical, immediate solution to lessen aviation’s carbon emissions. Despite its potential, SAF production remains limited, underscoring the need for innovation to make sustainable aviation fuels more accessible and cost-effective.

Mike Deimler, the Global Leader of Innovations at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and a founding member of ACT, called for unified action to foster breakthroughs in early-stage aviation technologies. He praised the SAFARI initiative as a model for collaborative innovation, essential for the rapid deployment of sustainable solutions across the industry.

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