Vancouver International Airport lays out $135 million plan to reduce emissions to zero

Oct 7 2021, 6:29 pm

If all goes according to plan, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) would become one of the world’s greenest major international airports by the end of this decade.

Today, airport officials laid out their new detailed investment strategy to gradually reduce YVR’s emissions to net zero carbon by 2030. This follows the airport’s announcement earlier this year that committed YVR to becoming the first airport in Canada to reach zero emissions by 2030, much earlier than the originally anticipated target year of 2050.

This net zero emissions target is for all the terminal building and airside infrastructure owned and operated by the Vancouver Airport Authority, and does not include the activities of airlines and other businesses that support the airport’s logistics operations.

“At YVR, we have a long history of innovation and sustainability and are proud to be at the forefront of creating a greener, more resilient future for aviation as well as our community and the economy that supports it,” said Marion Town, director of climate and environment for Vancouver Airport Authority, in a statement.

“For many years, we have developed and followed an Environmental Management Plan to guide our efforts to reduce YVR’s impact on the environment. Our Roadmap to Net Zero Carbon is an extension of this overarching plan and will ensure we achieve our ambitious goals.”

The entire plan is expected to cost up to $135 million in 2021 dollars, spread over this decade, including up to about $109 million in capital investments and up to about $27 million in goods and services funding. Some of these costs could be covered by BC Hydro and Fortis BC’s energy efficiency programs.

Currently, 60% of YVR’s emissions are from the natural gas consumed for heating the terminal building, and for cooking activities by restaurants and other food and beverage partners. Another 8% is from vehicle fleets, and 30% from BC Hydro’s electricity.

vancouver international airport yvr net zero roadmap

YVR Airport’s net zero schedule. (Vancouver International Airport)

The airport’s vehicle fleets, including maintenance equipment, fire trucks, and shuttle buses, would be replaced with zero-emission models or transition to greener fuels such as renewable diesel. Some of these replacements are also timed with the vehicle’s end of lifespan. At the moment, the airport has about 200 vehicles.

Investments would also need to be made towards vehicle charging infrastructure, while the use of renewable diesel would initially start as a pilot project. The intention is to even have backup generators rely on renewable diesel.

For terminal building emissions, the airport will implement conservation measures that result in reduced natural gas use in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and hot water. This will be accomplished by using equipment more efficiently, and replacing utilities for newer technology.

Upgrades to building control and monitoring systems and the installation of more LED lighting would also help reduce emissions.

The net zero strategy also includes optimizing existing solar thermal systems for hot water, and an investment on a new additional small solar array system.

The remaining gap to reach net zero emissions would be through purchasing carbon offsets, and removals.

In late 2020, YVR completed construction on the $300 million Pier D international terminal building expansion, which is the largest expansion of the terminal building in two decades. It is also the most energy efficient wing of the terminal building, setting a new standard for future terminal building expansions.

However, the airport in September 2020 made the decision to cancel its geoexchange and parkade expansion complex. The geoexchange would have provided a green heating and cooling solution for the terminal building, but due to the pandemic’s financial impact, construction came to a permanent halt, leaving uncompleted concrete structures at the site of the former long-term value parking lot.

YVR spent $525 million on the geoexchange and parkade complex prior to the construction stoppage. The project can be restarted in the future, with the infusion of several hundred million dollars more.

vancouver international airport parkade geoexchange core program september 2020

Construction progress on the new parkade (right) and central utilities building with a geoexchange (left) at Vancouver International Airport as of September 2020. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

yvr geoexchange

Artistic rendering of Vancouver International Airport’s new geoexchange facility. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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