3 Reasons Why Spain Can Become a Leader in Sustainable Aviation Fuels


Referred to as SAFs for short, this new class of aviation fuels – a mix derived from organic as well as synthetic sources – is the energy that will power aircraft in the future, and the European Union, through its agency for aviation safety EASA, has already committed to deadlines for 2030 and 2050 (which by the way the IAG group of which Iberia is a part will exceed).

And we’re happy to report that Spain is perfectly poised to become a world leader in the production and export of SAPs, for the following reasons>

Spain Is Already Heavily into Renewable Energy

In fact, our country can even be considered a “world power” in this are. On the one hand, it has Europe´s largest solar-energy resources as well as one of the most important in wind energy. On the other hand, it manufactures most of the necessary components and is at the forefront of research and development within the sector.

Furthermore, the ability to store clean energy is one of the essential factors for its profitability. The regulatory framework for renewables storage is expected to be approved sometime this year, or at the latest at the beginning of 2025, within the framework of a plan to promote renewable energy approved in December 2021.

What does all this mean in the context of the SAF? Among many other things, the projection that energy storage companies will take advantage of this window of opportunity. This obviously includes sustainable aviation fuel. The report prepared for Iberia and Vueling by the PriceWaterhouseCoopers global ounting and professional services giant cites between 30 and 40 SAF plants to cover Spanish domestic demand. Yet all SAF currently produced is consumed, meaning a significant surplus available for export.

Spain Is Rich in Agricultural Resources

Since many SAFs are manufactured from biological sources, the immense volume of agricultural, forestry and livestock resources available to our country also puts it at the forefront for producing this fuel. In the case of biological SAF, one of the manufacturing processes, known as thermochemical, is developed from wood and waste from agriculture, with the biomass is gasified and transformed into kerosene.

Moreover, Spain has space to enable SAF-producing plants; For common sense and sustainability, these plants must be where the raw materials are. This is not only a prime  economic opportunity for the country, but also one to ameliorate a difficult problem: to attract more people to so-called España vacía (“empty Spain”, with sparse and dwindling populations).

Spain Is a Hub For Green Hydrogen Production

In addition to plenty of resources to produce organic-based SAF, the country also has numerous the options to lead the production of the synthetic form of this fuel from green hydrogen, the kind produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity.

Synthetics are critical because decarbonisation in large corporations is not viable using solar or wind energy alone. And our country will act as a spearhead in this area, as the leading edge of a scheme called H2Med, launched in 2022, to establish a “hydrogen corridor” from the Iberian Peninsula across Western Europe up to Scandinavia, with the aim of making the continent carbon neutral by 2050.

In the shorter term, the Spanish government’s forecast is to reach 10 percent of total European production by 2030. In fact, our country will lead both the production of green hydrogen and the creation of related jobs (more than 181,000 of them, representing 11 percent of all jobs in Europe linked to green energy).

Opportunities & Figures

With this very favorable scenario, it is clear that Spain can become, in the not too distant future, a leader in SAF production. With the creation of this range of 30-40 production plants, the data looks very positive:

Employment: between direct and indirect jobs, and between the construction phase and subsequent commissioning, the report estimates about 270,000 new jobs.

GDP: 56,000 million euros more in approximately 25 years in the Spanish gross domestic product (that is, more or less 4 percent of the current GDP).

In 2022, SAF production was almost triple that of 2021. Taking into account that 5 precent of the total fuel, in the worst case scenario, is expected to be SAF, the consumption and production projection is much higher. more than optimistic. This without taking into account that in 2050 the European objective is 70 percent sustainable fuel (100 percent for IAG).

Large energy companies have already launched a large portfolio of projects with plans worth 30 billion euros to make green hydrogen viable, and they far exceed official objectives for 2030.

In short, the future looks green, indeed!