The EIA-Air Canada Sustainability Partnership is designed to support development of technologies such as the electrification of aviation ground equipment, hydrogen fuel cells, the use of drones for e-commerce and cargo delivery, and the replacement of single-use plastic with plant-fibre materials.
Details of the agreement
Myron Keehn, vice president, air services and business development for Edmonton International Airport, said both parties to the agreement are already partnering with companies and inventors on green tech. Some of those projects will be brought under the agreement.
The agreement is also open to new partners with ideas on making aviation and airports more sustainable, he said. The aim is to test, trial, and potentially commercialize the new technologies.
“It’s an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, the tent is open, everybody come on in. Tell us who you are and how we can work with you.’ ”
EIA has 177,000 square feet in four incubator spaces which can accommodate some of the projects, Keehn said. He added the entire airport considers itself a living lab in terms of developing sustainable practices.
Neither EIA nor Air Canada is disclosing specific costs of the partnership.
“Both organizations have committed resources, both human resources and financial resources,” he said.
Reducing airline emissions to reach net zero
The airline and the airport collaborated in 2018 on a flight from Edmonton to San Francisco that used sustainable aviation fuels. The initiative reduced net emissions from the flight by 20 per cent.
“This partnership with the Edmonton Airport is an important step toward our midterm 2030 objective that roll up into our overall net zero by 2050 emission goal,” said Samuel Elfassy, vice president, safety, at Air Canada in a media release.
Air Canada’s 2030 benchmark is a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from flights and 30 per cent from ground operations.
Elfassy added that the reductions achieved by the agreement could be scaled to other airports in Canada and internationally.
EIA has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040. It is the first and only airport in the world to sign The Climate Pledge, cofounded by Amazon.
Keehn said alignment on core values is what made Air Canada choose the Edmonton airport as its partner for the sustainability initiative.
“We’re probably more progressive in embedding sustainability in how we do business,” said Keehn.
He cited projects already underway, including partnerships with the University of Alberta, government, and private industry on sustainable fuel and biofuels, as examples of the type of projects the airport brings to the table.
Solar farm planned for EIA
International energy company Alpin Sun of Germany is also planning to build Airport City Solar, a $169-million, 627-acre solar farm at the airport. When complete the site will generate 120MW of electricity. Construction is slated to begin in early 2022, with completion in November of 2022.
Air Canada senior director, environmental affairs, Teresa Ehman told SustainableBiz.ca in an email exchange that the airport and airline have been in discussions since the San Francisco flight on advancing sustainable aviation. She added that Air Canada is also working with other Canadian airports on sustainability projects.
EIA is Canada’s fifth-busiest airport, but with 7,700 acres of land is the largest in size.