Macron’s Vision: Propelling France as a Champion of Green Aviation

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Summary

On Friday, June 16, Emmanuel Macron presented a 2.2 billion euro plan to promote the development of “zero-emission” aircraft in France and preserve a strong aerospace industry in the face of the challenges of decarbonization.

During a visit to Safran’s aircraft engine facility in Villaroche, Seine-et-Marne, the French head of state stated that France has the means to produce ultra-clean aircraft and should be a champion in this industry. This statement was made just three days before the Paris Air Show, a major global event in the aviation industry.

In the world of commercial aircraft sales, Airbus stands out as the dominant player, with one out of every two aircraft being designed by them. France, in particular, plays a significant role in this industry. As the push for decarbonization gains momentum, a fierce competition has emerged among European, American, and Chinese companies, each vying to be the front-runner in this market.

In a proactive move, the French government has announced its intention to significantly intensify its efforts from 2024 to 2030. This includes a substantial increase in annual funding, reaching 300 million euros, dedicated to the development of more fuel-efficient engines and aircraft designs. The President has made it clear that this investment is aimed at driving progress in the aviation industry’s decarbonization initiatives.

Additionally, the State is committed to investing 200 million euros in the advancement of air biofuels within France. The goal is to establish the capacity to produce 500,000 tonnes of biofuels annually by the year 2030. This financial support underscores the government’s commitment to sustainable aviation and its determination to promote the use of environmentally friendly alternatives in the industry.

Kerosene and biomass

A notable development in this endeavor is the establishment of a sustainable air fuels plant in Lacq, located in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, a region renowned for its expertise in energy. This plant holds significant promise, leveraging the knowledge gained from the renowned Lacq gas deposit. According to the President, this initiative will create a substantial number of direct jobs, with 100 on-site positions and an additional 600 jobs in the recycling sector expected by 2027.

The BioTJet project, spearheaded by Elyse Energy, an innovative SME specializing in low-carbon molecules, has garnered support from a consortium consisting of TotalEnergies, the oilseed group Avril, and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp. These partner companies have announced a collective investment of 1 billion euros, underscoring their commitment to driving sustainable aviation forward.

This collaborative effort not only demonstrates the determination to reduce carbon emissions but also highlights the potential for economic growth and job creation within the renewable energy sector. The sustainable air fuels plant in Lacq serves as a prime example of how innovation and strategic partnerships can contribute to a more sustainable future for the aviation industry and the regions it impacts.

Anticipated to commence operations in 2028, the plant will specialize in the production of advanced biokerosene derived from biomass, primarily utilizing local forestry residues and wood waste. This innovative facility aims to supply airlines with 75,000 tonnes of sustainable kerosene by 2030, accounting for 15% of the total French production.

Sustainable fuels, also known as SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuels), are derived from sources such as waste oils, wood residues, and algae. These fuels serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional kerosene and can be used in conjunction with it.

At present, existing production units in France primarily rely on used cooking oils and animal fats as feedstock for sustainable fuel production. The introduction of the Lacq plant will significantly expand the range of feedstock utilized, with a focus on biomass, allowing for increased production and broader environmental benefits.

By embracing a diverse range of raw materials, this initiative represents a significant step towards achieving a more sustainable aviation sector in France, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and advancing the utilization of renewable resources.

Start-ups and hybrid fuel

As of 2022, global production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) stood at 250,000 tonnes, accounting for less than 0.1% of the aviation industry’s total consumption of over 300 million tonnes of kerosene. Recognizing the need for significant progress, the European Union has set ambitious targets to increase the share of SAF to 6% by 2030 and an impressive 75% by 2050.

In line with these objectives, Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has announced a funding package of €50 million to support start-ups working on projects related to small hybrid, electric, or hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft. This financial support aims to encourage innovation and the development of sustainable solutions in the aviation industry.

By investing in promising ventures in the field of alternative propulsion systems, the French government seeks to drive advancements in eco-friendly aviation technologies. These efforts are crucial in transitioning towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future, reducing carbon emissions, and fostering the growth of cleaner and greener aviation options.

With a strong determination to revitalize his presidency following the pension crisis, the head of state has recently made a series of announcements concerning the reindustrialization and technological sovereignty of France.

The aviation industry accounts for nearly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is experiencing a remarkable resurgence after a significant decline in activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Air transportation is projected to regain its pre-Covid activity level this year, with an estimated 4.5 billion passengers transported in 2019. Furthermore, this figure could double by 2050.

According to Airbus, the global aircraft fleet is expected to double in the coming years, reaching 46,000 aircraft by 2042.

Having already achieved a 50% reduction in passenger energy consumption over the past two decades, the aviation sector must now strive for carbon neutrality by 2050 in alignment with European policies.

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