Monday, November 28

Aena seeks to be zero emissions before 2040


Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas Airport. / Edward Parra

In its sustainability strategy, Aena seeks to be zero emissions before 2040

Jose A. Gonzalez

From “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” to “what is generated in Barajas stays in Barajas”. This is one of the ideas contained in the roadmap of Aena, the public company that manages airports in Spain. The terminals of these facilities are, especially in the largest, small cities.

From restaurants to clothing stores, without forgetting the typical fast food establishments or the famous
duty-free. Spaces for shopping, eating or having a coffee that leave their mark. In 2019, the Aena airport network generated almost 80,000 tons of waste, the figure fell in 2020 to 58,719 tons due to the impact of Covid-19. This means that each passenger generated 0.29 kilograms and 0.77 kg respectively, according to the company’s 2021-2030 Sustainability Strategy.

Currently, of the total non-hazardous waste generated, in 2019, approximately 74% was totally recycled and 8% partially, while about 18% of the remaining waste was eliminated. “We want to improve awareness and classify waste better,” explains Amparo Brea, director of innovation, sustainability and customer experience, and Chief Green Officer (CGO) of Aena.

Currently, the waste generated in the airport network is removed by different concession companies. The new strategy of the public company seeks to implement a new model that “leads to
zero waste in 2040”, Brea points out, and also to the reduction of emissions.

“We want to improve awareness and classify waste better”

amparo pitch

director of innovation, sustainability and customer experience, and Chief Green Officer (CGO) of Aena

A circularity of waste to feed the airport itself. The bottle that is discarded before going through police control will be capable of, in the future, generating energy to light the terminal.

A commitment of 15 million euros, included in the strategic plan of the airport manager, which involves the construction of a biogas plant at the Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas Airport and which will be completed in 2026. “In the coming months it will be tendered”, points out the director of innovation, sustainability and customer experience of Aena. With this facility, the airfield will convert garbage into raw material for an energy source.

energy self-sufficiency

But, this is not the only stopover for Aena on its flight towards zero emissions by 2040, “we have advanced our objective by ten years”, highlights Brea, “but we can advance it further”, he adds.

In total, 750 million euros until 2030 to seek carbon neutrality in its airports, of which 350 are destined to achieve green energy production in 2026. “We want to reduce energy consumption per passenger by 9% in 2030” Brea explains.

“We are going to reduce our emissions as much as we can and if we cannot do so, we will compensate them with mitigation actions”

Amparo Brea

director of innovation, sustainability and customer experience, and Chief Green Officer (CGO) of Aena

This involves the installation of almost 1,000 hectares of photovoltaic plants spread over 14 airports. The most ambitious commitment is concentrated in Madrid, which “accounts for 25% of the plan,” highlights Brea. “We will generate enough energy to light 65,000 homes,” he points out.

Within this budget, Aena also contemplates three geothermal plants, located in Madrid, Barcelona-El Prat, and Palma de Mallorca. These three actions will have a budget of around 50 million euros.

The ‘flight plan’ is maintained

Presented in 2021, Aena’s travel notebook towards sustainability “is fulfilled”, emphasizes Amparo Brea. “Our shareholders have approved our plan for the second time and have done so with more than 90% support,” she says.

A flight that is still in its takeoff phase and that has the first milestone in 2026, “on this date we want our airports to be carbon neutral,” he replies. The Climate Action Plan (PAC) has an end date of 2030, while they expect Aena to be
net zero carbon in 2040, “although it may be sooner,” repeats Brea.

“We are going to reduce our emissions as much as we can and if we cannot do so, we will compensate them with mitigation actions,” he explains. For now, in the last twelve months of 2021, Aena managed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 66.2%.

A job that involves not only the staff and facilities of the airport manager, “it also takes into account our suppliers,” says Ana Salazar López-Pedraza, head of Aena’s sustainability division. To do this, the company’s upcoming tenders “will include sustainability and social responsibility objectives that will have to be met,” explains Brea.

sustainable flights

Flying is one of the activities that can produce the most carbon emissions. “The entire sector is convinced that we must move forward and with sustainability as an objective,” explains Amparo Brea, director of innovation, sustainability and customer experience, and Chief Green Officer (CGO) of Aena.

Biofuels or hydrogen are some of the alternatives in which the sector is working to reduce the carbon footprint of its trips. “We are preparing our infrastructures to be able to accommodate electric and hydrogen aircraft in 2035.”

In addition, to promote sustainability among travelers, airlines support the use and development of both electrification and SAF (sustainable aviation fuels).

The use of SAF is available at Madrid and Barcelona airports, and travelers can choose to use biofuels through the Avikor app to reduce their carbon footprint.


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