Singapore could reduce Changi Airport’s carbon footprint in a bid to become a sustainable air hub

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1. Reduce the carbon footprint of air conditioning

Changi Airport’s air conditioning system is the largest consumer of energy, accounting for 60 percent of the terminals’ total energy consumption.

While the airport has ongoing initiatives to reduce the use of air conditioners and the energy required to run the system, the panel recommended CAAS work with stakeholders to further improve the system’s energy efficiency through innovative energy-efficient technologies and design concepts.

This includes assessing possible alternative cooling methods or technologies to guide the design for Terminal 5, and adapting existing terminals to achieve maximum energy savings.

That said, the airport recognizes that its air conditioning system is an important part of its service to provide comfort to passengers. The airport will not completely remove the air conditioning, but will explore different cooling methods using the space in the terminals.

2. Use solar energy at the airport

Although Changi Airport has already installed solar panels on the roofs of its terminals, the panel said there is scope to “significantly increase” the use of solar energy if solar panels can also be installed at the airport, including on the grassy verges. along taxiways and near the runway.

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The solar panels currently supply only 4 percent of the airport’s total energy consumption.

The panel advised CAAS to conduct a technical study on the feasibility of installing solar panels at the airport, including assessing their impact on radar signals, flight operations, energy yields, transmission losses and economic viability.

For example, the reflective nature of solar panels could obscure a pilot’s view of landing, while debris kicked up from a landing plane could damage nearby panels.

If demonstrated to be viable, CAAS will involve the International Civil Aviation Organization and other industry associations in standards and implementation.

3. Increase the use of renewable electricity

Building on the previous measure on solar energy, the panel recommended CAAS work with stakeholders to secure imported low-carbon electricity for Changi Airport and set medium-term targets for 2030 and 2050 for the use of renewable electricity.

The Energy Market Authority has put out requests for proposals to bring low-carbon electricity to Singapore, amid its goal to import 4 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2035 to decarbonize the country’s electricity sector.

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In the long term, there is potential for the aviation sector to tap into new domestic renewable energy production initiatives, such as carbon capture, use and storage, or the use of hydrogen.

4. Run all airside vehicles on clean energy

Changi Airport currently has a fleet of up to 3,000 airside vehicles, including tow trucks, catering trucks and baggage carts. The airport has electrified about 10 percent of them, mainly the smaller vehicles.

The panel recommended that CAAS work with stakeholders to facilitate the transition of all airside vehicles to cleaner energy options.

This can be done in three ways: electrification of the airside fleet, conversion to hydrogen-powered vehicles and the use of biofuels.

Authorities should conduct a simulation and modeling study, along with technology trials, to better understand the implementation scale, operational challenges, policy and regulatory needs for each path, the panel said.

5. Set up waste-to-energy facility at Changi Airport

Changi Airport adopts circular waste practices to reduce the amount of waste generated and consume fewer external resources.

In addition, the panel recommended a more direct decarbonization route to reduce energy consumption, through an on-site waste-to-energy facility at Changi Airport.

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The facility could work by channeling waste — including from arriving aircraft — as a feedstock to generate biofuels or electricity.

CAAS should work with stakeholders to study the potential and feasibility of establishing such a facility, especially whether there are sufficient economies of scale for such a facility, the panel said.

Authorities should also investigate who would operate the facility, the type of waste streams involved, and potential problems that could arise.

6. Optimize Airport Activities

Airport-level system optimization can improve operational efficiency and systematically reduce carbon emissions, the panel said.

Changi Airport could benefit from developing a digital model that integrates data from various sources to reflect actual airport operations. This can then be presented in a human-centric interface for advanced prediction, simulation and process optimization.

The panel recommended that CAAS work with stakeholders to study the feasibility of a digital twin modeling process at Changi Airport.

The study should include planning, design and end-to-end optimization of airport processes to reduce energy consumption and minimize airside emissions from aircraft and vehicle movements.

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