NewsMontenegro rethinks airports in a European perspective

Montenegro rethinks airports in a European perspective

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The two airports of Montenegro have recently entered the environmental certification programme which recognises and evaluates efforts towards the zero emissions objective, to get closer to energy neutrality: for the ACA – Airport Carbon Accreditation – both Montenegrin airports, that of the capital Podgorica and the tourist one of Tivat on the Adriatic coast, are currently in the initial mapping phase.

In 2008, during the annual meeting of Airports Council International – ACI Europe, airports formalised their commitment to reduce CO2 emissions: within a year, a resolution on climate change would lead to the creation of the ACA, a certification system in 7 levels of merit which has grown from the initial 17 members to the current over 500   accredited airports.

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Small steps towards membership

Montenegro’s entry into the certification system is linked to its participation in the transnational project SOLAR, Sustainable reduction Of carbon footprint Level in program AiRports, which between 2022 and 2023 involved the Montenegrin managing body, the airports of Puglia, Sviluppo Italia Molise S.p.A and Albanian civil aviation in a process of exchanging good practices to reduce the environmental and energy impact of airports.

Shortly before, together with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Montenegro had adopted an action plan   and joined CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), a scheme for reducing CO2 emissions of air traffic: starting from 2020, actions at national level would also include concrete involvement of all subjects, awareness campaigns, training and reconversion at different levels.

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With the European SOLAR project, the Montenegrin airport authority addressed the issue of the ecological footprint and the reduction of CO2 emissions for the first time “on the ground”. There had already been analyses and reflections on air traffic in general before; now the airport is at the centre of the discussion.

In fact, although the impact of emissions due to aircraft engines is decidedly important – and accounts for example for 83% of the greenhouse gases produced at the Podgorica airport – the possibility of addressing the production of CO2 and reducing pollution also depends on the management of the entire chain of activities and services linked to the airport.

This includes vehicles active on the runway for unloading baggage, moving stairs and transferring passengers, and then fuel dispensers, generators, water pumps, fire prevention structures as well as the heating and cooling systems, energy distribution , waste disposal in passenger terminals, shops and public places, and the management of public and private transport to reach and leave the airport.

Eliminate waste for sustainable growth

The two years of cooperation with SOLAR’s Italian and Albanian partners have encouraged reflection and led to a strategic analysis that estimated emissions, mapped all the sources and outlined proposals, with a consideration that is also a promise: “The increase in passengers should not lead to an increase in emissions”, reads the final report.

“After years of individual actions to impact the situation on site – Miloš Janković, coordinator of SOLAR on behalf of the Montenegro Airports, said during one of the project meetings – the collaboration with Italian and Albanian partners allows us to share good practices and make further progress to manage, reduce and ultimately neutralise our environmental impact”.

With over 13,000 take-offs and landings (data referring to 2019, the pre-pandemic year), and a turnover of around 1,300,000 passengers per year, Podgorica airport has 471 employees and is less than 10 kilometres from the capital. Aircraft engines are responsible for almost 21 million tons of CO2, compared to just over 2,500 from employee and passenger cars. The airport’s energy consumption is responsible for less than 6% of the total, while only 0.8% of emissions come from activities on the landing and take-off runways.

The room for intervention is therefore limited, but this has not discouraged the partners, who in these two years have focused on apparently irrelevant details but with a long-term impact, including the average ignition time of aircraft engines on the runway, the so-called taxi-in, the interval between landing and switching off the engines, and the taxi-out, the interval between starting the engine and taking off. This average time on the runways of Podgorica amounts to 10 minutes, and shaving even just a handful of seconds on each of the over 13,000 planes in motion every year would mean saving a significant amount of CO2.

Still on the runway, there could also be an intervention on the average switch-on time of the APU auxiliary unit, which is currently 20 minutes: it is an autonomous generator that supplies electricity and power when the main engines are switched off and, when the aircraft is parked far from shore power supplies, it allows the on-board electrical system to be kept active. Currently the APU burns jet fuel, while using ground systems that run on electricity produced with greater efficiency and less CO2 consumption would reduce emissions at this stage by up to 40%.

The value of awareness

Comparing consumption at absolute levels, however, risks neutralising any enthusiasm, if we consider that, again at the Podgorica airport, diesel consumption for the production of electricity (1,624 litres) and for earthmoving (76,795) amounts to only just over a hundredth of what is consumed by aircraft engines (6,616,340). Yet, for the purposes of the analysis, the Montenegrins also estimated how much was consumed on the journey home to the airport by both employees (111,056 liters) and passengers (1,297), taking into account the fact that 85% of cars in Montenegro are powered by diesel and, having an average lifespan of 15 years, consume 7 litres per 100 kilometres.

To reach the airport, three-quarters of passengers use their own car or taxi; the same percentage of employees use the car, while only 3 out of 100 employees go by bus, slightly more than those who walk to their workplace.

The Montenegrin airport authority organised training courses for employees, members and representatives of stakeholders, such as service and cargo supply companies, airlines, catering companies, and there was also an awareness-raising campaign aimed at passengers. “Environmental awareness is important – Božidar Pavlović, representative of EcoEnergy Consulting, a Montenegrin company involved in SOLAR, said at a meeting of the partners – it is a trend dictated not by fashion but by necessity. And the speed with which its importance is understood will have a significant impact on the future of the planet”.

For Montenegro, attention to climate change is closely linked to the process of accession to the European Union, considered a national priority. Hence the country’s commitment to adapt its legislative standards to environmental requirements, for example in the future to be able to fully participate in the EU ETS, the European carbon market, where greenhouse gas emissions become a currency of exchange.

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