Near-Term Electricity Requirement and Emission Implications for Sustainable Aviation Fuel Production with CO2-to-Fuels Technologies

Yijin Li, Ella Zhou, Ling Tao, Kwang Hoon Baek, Pingping Sun, Amgad Elgowainy

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Aviation contributed approximately 10% of the U.S. transportation sector's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and about 3% of the nation's total GHG production before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (EPA 2022). Unlike the ground transportation sector, which can be decarbonized by using batteries and hydrogen fuel cell powertrain technologies, the technical and economic challenges of aviation electrification open the opportunity for CO2 utilization (CO2U) using clean power sources. The U.S. government set a goal to produce 3 billion gallons per year of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) by 2030 and scale up the production to 35 billion gallons per year by 2050 (Bioenergy Technologies Office 2022). In this report, we examine three potential locations, in California, Iowa, and Louisiana, for SAF production using two production pathways that are expected to be available by 2030. We analyze the electricity cost to satisfy 10% of the SAF production potential for the select locations. Specifically, we consider (1) retail electricity cost from the default local utility in each location; (2) physical power purchase agreement (PPA) for renewable power and battery storage hybrid systems with preset prices; (3) financial PPA from a dedicated renewable plant; and (4) estimated real-time pricing (RTP) from the wholesale power market with utility delivery adders. Retail rates are available for the three potential locations; however, the developer should negotiate with the local utility in Iowa for new tariff riders, because the load of the proposed SAF plant (1.4 GW) is significantly higher than the current industrial tariff structure requirement (200 kW). The developers are not able to claim federal credits (i.e., the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022) when sourcing electricity from local utilities. Developers could consider prioritizing physical and financial PPAs as purchase options. While physical PPAs can be imported out of state, this structure imposes availability issues as developers must locate in the same electricity grid regions. Financial PPAs do not have the same location restrictions and provide the same cost savings as physical PPAs, but financial PPAs impose financial risks in the event of system curtailment and grid interruption. RTPs are available for customers in California with flexible load and hourly load management capability; however, utilities in our studied regions in Louisiana and Iowa only offer time-of-use and curtailment programs to incentivize lower energy usage in peak hours. These utilities do not currently offer RTP programs, and the developer may need to have further negotiations with the local utilities to access RTP programs.The results show that purchased electricity prices may range from 2.6 cents/kWh to 7.1 cents/kWh for the three studied plants.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-84838


  • CO2 utilization
  • electricity
  • emission impact
  • emission intensity
  • power purchase agreement
  • real-time pricing
  • retail electricity
  • sustainable aviation fuels


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