Airports: When regulatory issues become business opportunities

Airports: When regulatory issues become business opportunities

Mar 2, 2016  Energy 

Airports: When regulatory issues become business opportunities
(Photo by: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff)

Airports need to reduce their energy consumption. Not just because they have the obligation to do so or because they are environmentally responsible, but because it makes business sense.

And that is exactly what Brendan Tapley will talk about at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2016, which will be held between March 15th and 17th, in Cologne, Germany. “There are quick wins that airport operators can achieve in reducing their carbon footprints and energy costs, but an increasingly planned and systematic approach is required to respond to EU regulations in Europe”, said Mr. Tapley when we reached him in London. 

Brendan is an Associate Director at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff in the UK. He manages a team of consultants focused on energy management projects in the aviation, retail, commercial and industrial sectors. 

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Airports are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 European study came to the conclusion that a big airport produces as much gases as 100 000 households. The reason is simple: they are big and inefficient systems.

Europe is getting serious about energy efficiency, with its 2020 and 2050 Energy Strategies and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), and airports are seen as an easy target in the overall effort to reduce energy consumption.

While the Paris Agreement excluded aviation emissions, it provides positive momentum for aviation market-based measure discussions taking place before the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in September 2016. The aviation sector will need access to high-quality carbon offsets as it develops the global market-based measure.

“There are a number of opportunities that can be achieved through energy efficiency improvements to passenger terminals, said Brendan Tapley. It makes business sense to assess and pursue these, before implementing grand schemes of renewable energy or carbon offsetting”.

As Brendan Tapley explained, Environment and Energy/Carbon are now board level priorities for airports, and savings there can contribute to other strategic priorities such as Cost & Revenue or Customer Experience

A takeoff point for good energy management is measurement and monitoring. “We find that 5% to 15% energy savings can be achieved by having a metering and monitoring system in place”, said Mr. Tapley adding that a skilled person is required to monitor the consumption, identify savings opportunities and then take action.

Return on Investment

That brings us back to the quick wins mentioned earlier. Actions may include driving low or no cost activities such as specific behaviour change programmes to conserve energy. “Energy conservation through staff engagement can yield good energy savings, provided someone is there to drive it”, said the WSP | Brinckerhoff energy efficiency specialist.

The next step would be energy reduction through efficiency improvements, and then low carbon energy generation or carbon offsetting. For a recent project, Brendan Tapley’s team led an energy audit study across three airports that identified € 4m energy savings for an investment of around € 17m. This included:

  • Optimising the chiller system  and ventilation control with free cooling
  • Rolling out high efficiency lighting
  • Improving the efficiency of the baggage system
  • Introducing low carbon heating using a biomass boiler, and ground source heat pumps

What is also on everyone’s mind is the ISO 50001 certification. “Obtaining it can be a big undertaking, requiring a lot of preparation. So we’re conducting ‘lite’ upfront assessments for our clients. In a few days, we can identify our client’s infrastructure and what needs to be done to get ISO 50001”.

“We give them the information they need in order to plan properly. They know how much money they need to budget, an idea of potential energy, carbon and cost savings, and how much time it will take”.

Via WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
Image,video ©: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff