11 Feb 2023

Consortium launch: Hydrogen lauded as zero carbon solution for aviation

5:05 pm on 11 February 2023
Minister Megan Woods address media at the New hydrogen consortium announcement at Christchurch airport.

Minister Megan Woods address media at the New hydrogen consortium announcement at Christchurch airport. Photo: RNZ/Natan McKinnon

The government says moves towards hydrogen-based aviation are pivotal in meeting the country's "ambitious" climate targets.

A new consortium, which centers around zero-emission aviation, was officially launched in Christchurch on Friday, comprising of a partnership between several prominent names in both the aviation and energy industries.

The first project for the newly-established syndicate is development of Kowhai Park, a 400-hectare renewable energy precinct near Christchurch Airport.

Fronting the alliance alongside the airport is Air New Zealand, international aerospace leaders Airbus and hydro-energy firms Fabrum, Fortescue Future and Hiringa Energy.

Speaking at today's launch, Energy and Resources Minister, Megan Woods, said that it was encouraging to see the sector taking proactive steps in developing zero carbon solutions for aviation.

"In many cases, the future will be electric the first electric planes are already flying in the medium term battery electric planes are expected to help decarbonise some shorter haul routes.

"However, it is so critical to find solutions for the harder to innovate sectors with innovation and pioneering approaches are needed."

New Zealand officials have pledged to halve its net emissions by 2030.

The target is New Zealand's contribution to the international Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Minister Woods said decarbonising transport played a huge part in meeting its climate targets.

"We are in a climate crisis, and we must act," she said.

New hydrogen consortium announced at Christchurch airport.

New hydrogen consortium announced at Christchurch airport. Photo: RNZ/Nathan Mckinnon

"I am an avid believer that vision when coupled with research and technology, that is where the magic happens."

The national carrier meanwhile has set its sight on its own ambitious targets.

Air New Zealand is wanting to fly its first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026, and also begin a phase-out of it Q300 Turboprop fleet from 2030 with a low emission aircraft.

The airline's chief sustainability officer, Kiri Hannifin, said the consortium would be crucial to reaching these goals.

"To fly hydrogen-powered aircraft in New Zealand we will need an aviation ecosystem that can support it," she said.

"The Hydrogen Consortium brings together energy, aircraft, airline operator and airport expertise with the aim of bringing this to life.

"We can't wait to see what we can achieve together."

Airbus is aiming to develop the world's first hydrogen-powered commercial passenger aircraft by 2035.

The European multi-national enterprise will factor in hydrogen requirements in New Zealand and leaders among its zero-emission team believe sustainable aviation requires "an entire ecosystem to be put in place".

"The consortium we are building brings together a number of pioneering partners with a common interest: to make hydrogen-powered aviation in New Zealand a reality," Airbus' ZEROe Ecosystem vice president Karine Guenan said.

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