Rolls Royce on 17 June launched its report, “Leading the Transition to Net Zero Carbon” setting out its near-term actions to achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest. “Our pathway shows how we will focus our technological capabilities to play a leading role in enabling significant elements of the global economy to get to net zero carbon by 2050, including aviation, shipping, and power generation,” the company said. “This includes the development of new technologies, enabling an accelerated take-up of sustainable fuels and driving step-change improvements in efficiency.”

Rolls Royce added: “One year on from joining the UN Race to Zero campaign, we are announcing plans to make all our new products compatible with net zero by 2030, and all our products in operation compatible by 2050. These products power some of the most carbon intensive parts of the economy. We are also introducing short-term targets – linked to executive remuneration – to accelerate the take-up of sustainable fuels, which have a key role to play in the decarbonisation of some of our markets, especially long-haul aviation.” We are already well advanced with net zero and zero carbon technologies across our Power Systems portfolio and as a result have sufficiently reliable data to be able to define a science-based interim target to reduce by 35% the lifetime emissions of new products sold by the business by 2030.

In his Foreword to the 38-page report, Rolls Royce CEO Warren East noted: “Our decarbonisation strategy is founded on our understanding of the levels of control and influence we can have over the emissions with which we are associated. It starts with emissions in our own operations, which we have already halved over the past five years and plan to get to net zero by 2030 – faster in some of our facilities. It then extends into our value chain and ultimately focuses on the contribution we can make to the global transition.”

Driving system change to meet Paris Agreement climate goals

There is no single solution to net zero and so we are innovating across multiple areas simultaneously, the company said. However, the pace and prioritisation of technological solutions, as well as global consistency and collaboration in policy, will also be key to success. “Consequently, we are expanding our collaboration with partners, industry leaders and governments across the three critical systems in which we operate – transport, energy and the built environment – to accelerate progress. These hard to abate sectors are all identified by the UN Race to Zero as requiring technological breakthroughs in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.”

Rolls Royce says it has many years of experience in pioneering solutions to some of society’s toughest technological challenges “and, increasingly, we have focused that effort on the creation of sustainable power". Achievements include “the world’s most efficient large civil aero-engine in service today, the Trent XWB, and its successor, UltraFan®, will be 25% more efficient than first generation Trent engines, significantly improving the economics of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF)”. In addition, “we have built a microgrid business and designed a small modular reactor (SMR) power plant with the potential to transform how we power cities or industrial processes”. The company is investing in battery storage technology, demonstrating fuel cells and building a leading position in all-electric and hybrid-electric flight. “Next month our Spirit of Innovation all-electric plane will take to the sky as it prepares to break the world all-electric flight speed record. Collectively and individually, these technologies represent the extensive expertise Rolls-Royce has to enable a net zero world.”

The company’s decarbonisation strategy has three interconnected pillars:

1. Decarbonising our operations: We will eliminate emissions from our own operations (scope 1 & 2) by 2030*.

2. Decarbonising complex, critical systems by enabling products to be used in a way that is compatible with net zero and pioneering new breakthrough technologies that can accelerate the global transition to net zero.

3. Actively advocating for the necessary enabling environment and policy support to achieve this ambition.

Technological innovations include:

  • In all-electric aviation, moving from demonstrators to commercial deals. “We are also currently testing the most powerful hybrid-electric propulsion system in aerospace
  • Exploring the use of SAFs in defence applications.
  • Advancing and selling microgrids, complete with battery storage solutions, to help expand the use of renewable energy across remote communities and the energy-intensive digital economy.
  • Exploring additional functionality through the introduction of fuel cells to provide clean power for industrial vehicles and processes.
  • Testing hydrogen fuel cell modules at the Power Systems facility in Germany with plans to have integrated 2MW of hydrogen fuel cells into operational microgrid demonstrators by 2023.
  • The SMR consortium is set to make a significant contribution to net zero through its innovative approach to power generation, providing a generational change in the cost of nuclear energy. “At 470MW, each SMR could help decarbonise a city of a million homes. With UK Government assistance and third party investment, the programme is now entering a new phase leading to design approval and power on the grid at the end of the decade.”

Rolls-Royce said on 18 June that, in the USA, it is leading a host of activities to help the company achieve its net zero goal.

Tom Bell, Chairman & CEO of Rolls-Royce North America and President of Defense said: “We’re ready to put our history of innovation to the test once again. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to combat climate change by enabling and even accelerating our transition to a net zero carbon future. We will meet that challenge by doing what we do best; Pioneering the Power that Matters – cleaner, more sustainable power for our customers and the environment.”

Rolls-Royce’s US activities include:

  • Following a $400M investment to revitalise the Indianapolis campus Green House Gas emissions have been reduced by approximately a third since 2014. The Indianapolis campus is on track to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030 in line with corporate goals.
  • Rolls-Royce has been successfully testing SAFs for more than ten years at the Indianapolis facilities.
  • Rolls-Royce Power Systems manufacturing plant in Aiken County, South Carolina has installed a sustainable microgrid solution onsite that is a practical demonstrator for end-users considering a microgrid for their energy resilience projects.
  • Rolls-Royce and NASA enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship on a litany of technologies that have made aviation safer and more efficient including variable geometry fans, advanced materials technology, and volcanic ash ingestion.
  • Rolls-Royce has been a partner of the Federal Aviation Administration Continuous Low Energy Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) public/private partnership with industry since the beginning of this programme in 2010.
  • Rolls-Royce has a long-standing relationship with Purdue University and partners on a host of activities that will help lead to a step-change in engine efficiencies which will include the development of hybrid-electric systems.
  • Rolls Royce is working within influential aviation industry associations “to advocate for industry-wide goals and progress in the sustainability space”.