Green Hydrogen Vital for Sustainable Aviation and Shipping: SASHA Report

The SASHA (Skies and Seas Hydrogen-fuels Accelerator) Coalition has commissioned the engineering consultant firm Arup to investigate the decarbonisation policies in place within the aviation and shipping sectors. The Coalition’s report, which was published on September 11th, not only examines the significance of green hydrogen for the decarbonisation of air and maritime transport, but also outlines broader trends within the hydrogen sector.

The report reveals a significant insight: the journey towards sustainable fuels for the aviation and shipping sectors relies heavily on the adoption of green hydrogen sourced from renewable energy and direct air capture (DAC). However, the report also highlights a big problem: current policies are not adequately supporting green hydrogen production, leading to a lack of interest and investments, resulting in what is referred to as the “Green Hydrogen Gap.”

The Green Hydrogen Gap refers to the disparity between the potential of green hydrogen and its current implementation. Insufficient policies and a lack of support hinder the growth of green hydrogen, particularly in industries such as shipping and aviation. To bridge this gap, better regulations and increased funding are needed to promote the adoption of green hydrogen growth in these industries.

Aoife O’Leary, CEO of Opportunity Green and Director of the SASHA Coalition notes: “there is a worrying delay in green hydrogen production, which means that if aviation and shipping don’t make their case clearly and loudly now, they won’t have access to fuels that will truly lead to sustainable decarbonization. […] Both shipping and aviation have come under increasing scrutiny for their climate impact, resulting in additional regulation at international, regional and national levels. And regulation will only get stricter over time as the climate crisis worsens.”

The report argues that governments should take proactive steps to prioritise the integration of hydrogen and DAC in aviation and shipping, as limited alternatives exist. Ms O’Leary said, “Governments are already prioritising other industries for hydrogen, so without stronger policy, aviation and shipping will be overlooked.”

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The report advocates for comprehensive policies to facilitate the scaling of these solutions on a global scale. While pioneering companies can drive demand for green hydrogen voluntarily, their efforts remain isolated without the crucial backing of policymakers.

Drawing on exclusive research conducted by Arup, the report meticulously examines the policy landscape surrounding green hydrogen and DAC in both the UK and the EU. It concludes that hydrogen production falls short of meeting the temperature targets set by the Paris Agreement due to a lack of guaranteed demand. Surprisingly, recent environmental policies in the UK and the EU focus more on supporting biofuels and gas in aviation and shipping, sidelining the prioritisation of green hydrogen necessary for complete decarbonisation.

The report arrives at a critical juncture, pointing to green hydrogen as a ray of hope amid the climate crisis. With kerosene and heavy fuel oil currently dominating fuel demand, green hydrogen emerges as a transformative force. Nuala Doyle, Policy Officer at the SASHA Coalition, emphasises that without alternative fuels, the aviation and shipping sectors face insurmountable challenges in their decarbonisation journeys, stating that: “clearly, shipping and aviation will be unable to decarbonise at the scale and pace required without alternative fuels. It’s unlikely that there will be a ‘one solution fits all’ fuel for these sectors, but one thing this research tells us is that green hydrogen will play a critical role in their decarbonisation as a feedstock for the majority of sustainable fuel pathways. Without green hydrogen, these sectors will struggle to find satisfactory zero emissions solutions.”

While green hydrogen holds promise, its realisation depends on robust regulatory mechanisms. The report notes that although signals promoting hydrogen-derived fuels have surfaced at the UK and EU levels, they fall short of the necessary scale to meet Paris Agreement goals. Policymakers must acknowledge the limited supply of green hydrogen in the coming decades and strategically allocate it to sectors, such as aviation and shipping, that lack more efficient decarbonisation avenues.

The report not only identifies challenges but also proposes a course of action. It calls for ambitious emission reduction targets tailored to aviation and shipping, with a focus on green hydrogen and DAC’s pivotal roles. By incentivising the adoption of fuels with maximum emission reduction potential, governments can drive demand for green hydrogen. The report also underscores the urgency of cross-departmental cooperation in shaping hydrogen policies.

Green hydrogen emerges not just as a solution, but as a catalyst for a sweeping transformation. The SASHA Coalition’s report serves as a clarion call for industries and policymakers to embrace greener horizons. It signifies a collective endeavour to usher in a new era of sustainable travel and shipping, fuelled by the power of green hydrogen.