Environmental Leadership
August 29, 2023

For airlines, sustainable fuel is key to reaching net zero by 2050

Xcel Energy joins Minnesota SAF Hub, a coalition to scale sustainable aviation fuel

A first-of-its-kind coalition is launching in Minnesota to scale sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with the urgency commercial aviation needs to reach net zero by 2050.  


Xcel Energy joins Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and Ecolab in establishing the Minnesota SAF Hub – an unparalleled collaboration among key players committed to scaling SAF production to replace conventional jet fuel. Through the GREATER MSP Partnership, these anchor members are joined by other leading institutions, including the State of Minnesota, to implement an ambitious shared strategy for aggressively decarbonizing the airline industry.  


Third on the World Economic Forum’s list of Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023, SAF is a safe, fully certified jet fuel that can be used in today’s aircraft engines and transported via existing pipeline infrastructure. Produced from many sources including renewable feedstocks and used cooking oil, SAF can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions of aviation by more than 80% - meaning exponentially fewer emissions from SAF than traditional jet fuel. 


“SAF is a next-generation technology that will help us advance our vision of providing net-zero energy to our customers by 2050,” said chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, Bob Frenzel. “We’re excited to support carbon reductions in the transportation sector by supplying carbon-free electricity and clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas, spurring commercial-scale SAF production in our headquarters state of Minnesota. This coalition also allows Xcel Energy to explore other end uses for SAF, including as a clean fuel for power generation and home heating.”  


Xcel Energy’s role will be to provide clean energy, both carbon-free electricity and carbon-free hydrogen, to sustainable aviation fuel production facilities across Minnesota. The company will maximize clean energy to ensure SAF production has as small a carbon footprint as possible. Clean transportation is one of Xcel Energy’s top strategic priorities, and the company is seizing this opportunity to help accelerate the aviation industry’s transition to clean energy.

Minnesota is a strategic geographical location for SAF production. It is Xcel Energy’s headquarters state, where the company has a track record of leading the clean energy transition. Significant clean energy infrastructure – including wind, solar and nuclear power – is already in place in Minnesota.


SAF is the best decarbonization lever the aviation industry has in the near- to mid-term on its journey to net zero. While airlines globally have committed to purchasing billions of gallons of SAF over the next few decades, there isn’t enough being produced currently to fuel commercial airlines globally for a single day.  


The Minnesota SAF Hub coalition is deploying a multi-phased approach to scaling production that begins with promoting the flow of SAF into the state and extends to supporting a robust and flexible SAF production infrastructure. The coalition is balancing pragmatism and ambition by using existing technologies to make progress as quickly as possible, while accelerating the technologies with the greatest carbon reduction potential.  


To achieve its ambitious volume targets, the Minnesota SAF Hub coalition is actively recruiting forward-thinking producers and investors similarly committed to establishing Minnesota as a leader in sustainable aviation. Interested parties from around the world are encouraged to contact GREATER MSP directly to learn more.  


“The Minnesota SAF Hub is the game changer aviation needs to start producing SAF at the volumes required to meet our aggressive goals,” said Delta CEO, Ed Bastian. “This coalition of heavy hitters from across the SAF ecosystem are collaborating to rapidly scale production, demonstrating the power of partnerships to meet our shared goal faster than any of us could do on our own.”