Hydrogen and electric aircraft are expected to require between 600 and 1,700 terawatt hours (TWh) of clean energy by 2050, according to a new white paper from the World Economic Forum. For now, the total amount of renewable energy produced globally in 2021 was just over 8,000 TWh.
The airport infrastructure needs to be in place by 2025, when the first battery - and hydrogen-powered passenger flights will begin operating
The World Economic Forum's new white paper explores the changes in infrastructure and highlights 10 key findings for airlines and airports to meet demand for new aircraft by 2050
Here's a link to the white paper:
The report suggests that meeting the projected energy demand for hydrogen and electric aircraft in 2050 will require the energy generated by 10-25 of the world's largest wind farms or a solar farm half the size of Belgium.
Alternative carbon-free propulsion options, such as battery and hydrogen-powered aircraft, are some of the directions the aviation industry is seeking to reach its net-zero carbon goal. It is estimated that hydrogen and electric aircraft will account for 21 to 38 percent of the aircraft fleet by 2050.
"The aviation industry must make significant investments in its infrastructure now if it is to meet its net-zero emissions target by 2050," said David Hyde, head of the WEF's Aerospace program. "If no action is taken, aviation's contribution to global warming will rise significantly and the industry must consider all options available for decarbonisation. This includes preparing for the large-scale use of aircraft powered by carbon-free fuels."
While the time may feel distant, the first commercial flight of the aircraft is expected to take place within a decade. Airports, airlines and others will need to make significant infrastructure investments to provide the green hydrogen and electricity needed for aircraft.
The white paper "Target True Zero," providing infrastructure for battery and hydrogen-powered flight, explores what these infrastructure changes require and how airports and other stakeholders can begin to prepare for them. On the investment side, studies show that shifting alternative dynamics will require capital investments of $700 billion to $1.7 trillion across the value chain by 2050.
"Ground infrastructures will be an important way to unlock battery electric and hydrogen powered aircraft as they become an alternative to making aviation sustainable over the next decade," said Robin Riedel, partner and co-leader of McKinsey's Center for Future Mobility. "Most importantly, stakeholders across the value chain, from governments to airports, from power and hydrogen companies to airlines, should start planning and investing."
Top 10 key findings:
The report explores multiple areas where the infrastructure needs to be expanded to prepare for these new aircraft. It identified 10 major findings for the aviation industry.
1. Global demand for alternative power could require 600-1,700TWh of clean energy by 2050. This is equivalent to the energy produced by 10-25 of the world's largest wind farms or a solar farm half the size of Belgium.
2. By 2050, large airports could consume 5-10 times as much electricity as they do today to support alternative power.
3.Alternative power will require two new infrastructure value chains: one for battery-electric aviation and one for hydrogen - which may include a variety of new partners that are not currently part of the aviation ecosystem.
4. Most airports have space for hydrogen liquefication and storage infrastructure, but not enough land to produce clean hydrogen.
5. Shifting to alternative power will require an investment of $700 billion to $1.7 trillion across the value chain by 2050. About 90 percent of the investment will go to infrastructure outside the airport, mainly power generation and hydrogen electrolysis and liquefaction.
6. Infrastructure investment required at large airports will be significantly higher than at small airports, but will be similar in magnitude to other major investments such as building new terminals.
7. The cost of alternative power operators is expected to be around 76-86% higher than the market price of green electricity, reflecting additional aviation infrastructure operating costs.
8. The investments needed to meet the 2050 targets must start now. By 2025, the first elements of the airport infrastructure must be in place to meet the expected energy demand.
9. To harness the power of network effects and regional connectivity, infrastructure investments need to be coordinated to enable alternative dynamic objectives.
10. Aviation needs to work with other industries to ensure sufficient green electricity and hydrogen energy in a supply-constrained environment and have a say in shaping the future of the hydrogen ecosystem.
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