It’s well-documented that airplanes contribute heftily to global carbon dioxide emissions. But what about airports?
From their fluorescent lighting to their perpetually-moving walkways, airports themselves also use large amounts of energy.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, the world’s 12th busiest airport, which receives more than 60 million people each year, is no exception. In a given year, the airport uses about about 175 million Kilowatt hours of energy, or the equivalent of 50,000 households.
But now, Schiphol, along with three other Dutch airports, is launching a ~ pilot ~ program to reduce its environmental footprint.
These four airports — Schiphol, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, Eindhoven Airport and Lelystad Airport — will run exclusively on renewable energy produced in the Netherlands beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the Royal Schiphol Group announced in a statement Tuesday.
“For our new energy contract, we wanted nothing but sustainable power generated in the Netherlands,” Jos Nijhuis, President and CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, said in the statements. “After all, one thing is certain: aviation can and must be made more sustainable.”
The renewable energy will be delivered through Eneco Group, a sustainable energy company, who signed off on a 15-year contract with Royal Schiphol Group.
By 2020, all of the energy will come from newly-build Dutch wind farms. Until then, the energy will come through a combination of newly-built wind farms, such as one in the municipality of Vianen, and already-existing sources of renewable energy within the country, the group said.
“We feel that the most important elements of this collaboration with Eneco are that all the Schiphol Group airports are involved and that additional sustainable energy sources will be developed in the Netherlands,” Nijhuis said. “This will allow our airports to increase their sustainability and offer economic benefits.”
When it comes to renewable energy, the Netherlands is charting a bold path. The country plans to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to have 16% of its energy produced through sustainable sources by 2023, according to CNBC.
In June, the Netherlands announced that 100% of its trains now run on renewable energy, a full year earlier than government officials had previously announced it would.
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development enshrine affordable and clean energy as one of 17 goals for eliminating extreme poverty.
Since 1990, the world’s output of carbon dioxide has been cut by nearly half thanks to advances in clean energy, but the proportion of carbon emissions from air travel is expected to rise “significantly” as “the volume of air travel is increasing much faster than gains in flight fuel efficiency,” according to the New York Times.
Making airports more energy efficient is a good way to start addressing air travel’s immense, and growing, carbon footprint.
The Netherlands is not the first country to embrace sustainability in airports.
At George Airport in South Africa, 41% of the airport’s energy consumption comes from solar energy, according to NACO, an airport planning and design firm. Worldwide, more than 100 airports produce at least some of their energy from solar power.
Industry leaders are increasingly recognizing not only the environmental, but also the economic benefits of transitioning to clean energy.
“For the energy transition, it is crucial for the business sector – which is by far the largest energy consumer – to embrace sustainability,” Jeroen de Haas, CEO of Eneco Group said.
As for airports’ primary export — planes? They too are slowly moving in the direction of sustainability.