Easyjet is betting everything on technology and abandoning carbon offsets

Easyjet is refining its trajectory towards net zero emissions. The low-cost British airline recently presented, on September 26, its roadmap to achieve this goal by 2050. It relies solely on technological pillars, along the lines drawn by the Science Based Targets initiative. (SBTi – Science Based Targets) , established by the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A method that will lead the company to stop the carbon offset program.

After several initiatives in recent years, Easyjet is continuing its intense communication around the reduction of its environmental footprint. The roadmap revealed by its managing director, Johan Lundgren, is based on five pillars that will enable it to reduce its emissions by 78% per passenger per kilometer by 2050, some from carbon capture. What is the removal of compensation measures, according to him.

The NEOs are ahead

The first pillar is the transformation of the fleet, well started with the order of 227 Airbus A320 NEO family aircraft, including 59 already delivered, for an estimated cost of 21 billion dollars, according to the list price. With a gain in fuel consumption compared to conventional A320s, NEOs should provide most of the decarbonization efforts in 2035, using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

At this point, Johan Lundgren ensures that his company is ready to meet its needs and especially the mandate to incorporate in Europe in the next five years, which gives 2% to SAF of the total fuel consumed in 2025, then 5% in 2030, thanks to its partnership with Q8 Aviation.

However, the leader assured that he wants to continue the need to prepare new generations such as synthetic fuels (e-fuel or power-to-liquid, which results from the use of carbon-free electricity and hydrogen and carbon capture).

Modernized airspace and optimized procedures

The next two pillars relate to the modernization of airspace – with improved organization in the UK and Europe with the Single European Sky as the tools currently used for reducing emissions by around 10% – and improving the operational efficiency.

In this last point, one of the priorities is the generalization of descent profile optimization (DPO) and methods of continuous descent approach (CDA). Easyjet has therefore announced an investment of several million pounds for the software retrofit of its entire fleet to enable it to implement this type of procedure.

According to Wouter Van Wersch, Airbus Regional Vice President for Europe, the DPO and CDA should save 98 tons of fuel and 311 tons of CO2 per aircraft per year, representing a potential reduction of 88,600 tons of CO2 for across the entire A320 fleet every year. It also estimates a noise footprint reduction of 10dB in the approach phases.

Easyjet believes in “green” aircraft

The last pillar is the introduction of zero-emission aircraft, mainly with devices capable of using hydrogen through combustion of heat engines, or through fuel cells that power electric motors. Easyjet has also teamed up with Rolls-Royce to develop an engine that is directly powered by hydrogen.

The two partners thus presented a first demonstrator based on a modified AE 2100 turboprop, which should soon make a first campaign of ground tests. Grazia Vittadini, the director of technology and strategy of Rolls-Royce, expressed confidence in the future tests and assured that this is only a step, the goal is to fly.

In Easyjet’s vision, these future generations of aircraft should provide almost half of the reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050. A discourse that seems more optimistic with a high level of confidence in technological developments . An ardent supporter of hydrogen, Guillaume Faury, Executive Chairman of Airbus, recognized himself at the last Paris Air Forum that it is a technology for the second half of the century whose “effect is still limited” before 2050.

Banned carbon offsets

Easyjet’s ambitions are not without counterparts. First of all, Johan Lundgren made an impact by announcing the elimination of his carbon offset program. It will remain valid for all tickets purchased at the end of the year for departures until September 2023. This will only be an option for customers who want it. This program however has made it possible to recover 8.7 million tons of CO2 since November 2019, but it does not match the SBTi line that does not take into account the offsets outside the sectors and mechanisms such as the trading system of European quota. (EU ETS) or the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Johan Lundgren assured that this was only a transitional step from the beginning. Without disclosing its cost, he assured that the future investment in the technology will be huge. However, it does not intend to bear the burden alone and therefore calls for action on the part of governments. As a priority, Easyjet asks for the definition of an incentive framework for the implementation of low-carbon flights or the development of zero-emission technologies, the integration of hydrogen with the initiative of the European RefuelEU Aviation in same way as SAF, the management. tax on passengers linked to emissions towards the decarbonization effort, or even the acceleration of the Single European Sky.

But the orange company also wants to invest in renewable energies, especially for the production of green hydrogen for aviation and the development of the infrastructure necessary for its operation at airports (supply, storage, refueling), which will be very heavy in the coming years. .