Airports boss says $1.7 billion Budget innovation fund will “kickstart” domestic manufacture of sustainable aviation fuel

Airplane in hand with national flag on background - Australia

The government’s $1.7 billion investment in a Future Made In Australia Innovation Fund will give a “significant” boost to the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in Australia, James Goodwin CEO at the Australian Airports Association (AAA) told Travel Weekly.

In the 2024-2025 budget released on Tuesday, the government said the $1.7 billion investment will “fund the deployment of innovative technologies and facilities linked directly to priority industries, including green metals and low carbon liquid fuels”.

The decision is the beginning of Australia’s move into developing its own SAF, Goodwin said.

“We know that sustainable aviation fuel will be a key component of reducing the emissions from air travel. So this is a good move to kickstart that domestic manufacturer of sustainable aviation fuel.”

James Goodwin

Currently airplanes can fly into Australia using sustainable fuel but the lack of infrastructure here means that they can’t fly out with it, he added.

“We don’t have it at the scale at the moment. We have got some catching up to do. An investment like this is a real boost to make sure we can hopefully get ahead of the game.”

The AAA has previously been vocal about the very real risk that airlines might cut back on flights to Australia as sustainability pressure increases.

“Australia is at the end of the global aviation network. We don’t want to see a situation where people are not coming to Australia because of their concerns about the emissions to do so.”

“If we can do everything we can to make sure that the emissions are reduced for the individual and for the, for the aircraft that are flying in, that’s what we want to do.”

Emirates SAF

Despite the funds’ focus on innovation and research, Goodwin says we can expect to see things move quickly.

“The investment provides some certainty to the people who are already involved and ready to go. So I wouldn’t see any delay on this. In fact, the budget announcement provides increased certainty in this space to get moving faster.”

Certification scheme for SAF

Further to the development of the fuel itself, the government also announced a $18.5 million investment in a certification scheme for SAF.

“That’s the next the next phase. We need to start developing the fuel, but we then also need to start certifying that it can be used, and that it will be recognised by all of those different airlines.”

Ironically, despite not being a manufacturer of SAF, Australia produces large quantities of the feedstocks – raw materials – used in biofuel production such as agricultural residues, waste gases and cooking oils.

SAF Biofuel. (Source: Australian Aviation)

Other significant moves for the airline industry include a $50 million investment in the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program (RAUP) and a $40 million investment in the renewed Regional Airports Program, (RAP).

The investment in RAUP has “nothing to do with tourism” and is more about making sure that remote indigenous communities can receive essential services in the case of a natural disaster, Goodwin said.

Meanwhile the RAP, which he described as the “next tier up” deals with “those airports that will have some tourism services and passenger services. The programme is aimed at making sure that the infrastructure is there to maintain the safety standards that the aircraft operators would expect.”

You can see James Goodwin speak live at our upcoming Travel DAZE Exec conference, buy your tickets here

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