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10 Insights From The Airports Going Green Conference

As part of APTIM’s role as sustainability consultants to the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), APTIM assists the CDA in hosting the annual Airports Going Green Conference, in conjunction with the American Association of Airport Executives.

The November 2021 virtual conference included panels covering topics relevant to a broad set of clients and industries, including discussions around Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, decarbonization, performance standards, and electrification.

Below are the Top 10 Lessons Learned from this dynamic conference:

  1. There is growing momentum for using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) as a basis for ESG reporting. While other reporting mechanisms, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), will continue to be important and influential elements of ESG reporting and programs, the overarching frameworks will reflect UNSDGs.
  2. Green bonds do offer tangible benefits to issuers. While it may be difficult to quantify the impact of pursuing green bond certification to pricing, certified green bonds can increase market interest and expand market appeal.
  3. “As a Service” models are expanding rapidly. Whether framed as energy efficiency-, infrastructure-, or decarbonization-as a service financing, the use and appeal of these financial structures are increasing.
  4. There is growing momentum for building performance standards. Cities, increasingly, will use building-specific benchmarks as the “stick” to ensure building owners improve the efficiency of their properties.
  5. Use of carbon-based fuels will continue, even if in a different form. Continued reliance on renewable natural gas for buildings and central plants and renewable aviation fuel for the airline industry will mean carbon-based fuels will still have a role in a “decarbonized” world.
  6. Credit ratings are still most impacted by broad market forces and trends. According to one rating agency, the impacts of broader market forces and trends are still more consequential than ESG reports.
  7. The impacts of moving to Net Zero carbon on Scope 3 elements may have as broad an impact on the grid as the growth of renewables for Scope 2 emissions. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), for instance, estimates that Scope 1 and 2 emissions represent only 3% of a typical airport’s emissions. As airlines, cargo companies, and rental car companies electrify, the impacts to the grid will be enormous. The same will be true for other types of logistics industries.
  8. There will be a significant first-mover advantage for companies transitioning to carbon-free transportation. Since power and transformer capacity is limited, early adopters may capture the existing capacity. This limited capacity may also mean that first-movers could have the lowest transition costs, since those following may have to shoulder more of the burden of the required infrastructure upgrades.
  9. Shifting to Electric Vehicles (EVs) will not just require greater planning about the charging infrastructure and electrical upgrades, but also the optimum operational frameworks. For instance, it may be better to plan for a circular holding pen than a linear one to allow vehicles better access to the chargers.
  10. Thoughtful EV charging planning can play a significant role in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies and impacts. Given disparities in access to charging, particularly Level 3 super-chargers, a proactive approach to charging infrastructure deployment will help ensure the switch to EVs doesn’t foster “charging deserts” or new “digital divides.”

By: Joel Freehling, Director, Energy Infrastructure

APTIM. Expect the Extraordinary.

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