Airports: Viable Places for Green Initiatives

Bahrain-airportCan airports ever be green? This is an overwhelming concept in a carbon-driven, and carbon-intensive industry. The reality is that air travel is often the only realistic option for the movement of both people and cargo in the current lifestyle and demands encompassed with time constraints. This is especially critical for the island nation of Bahrain that is so heavily dependent on air travel in terms of food security. With over 90% of all goods: perishable and manufactured, imported into the nation, this carbon-intensive industry is not going to disappear.

Airports themselves, may only contribute 5% to the carbon emissions attributed to the aviation industry, never the less, airport infrastructure could ensure a lowering of emissions, especially nitrogen oxide levels [1]. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has statistical evidence of improved fuel efficiency and better CO2 performance over the past 15 years[1]. It is viable for airports to reduce the nitrogen oxide levels around airports by developing ground transportation infrastructure for transferring passengers and deploying employees across the airport terminals, ground handling of personal baggage and commercial cargo, as well as the catering services, in a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Scope for Green Airports

Airports are viable places for adoption of green initiatives. A significant portion of the emissions are from vehicle transportation onsite at the airport is from moving employees and passengers between terminals and aircraft carriers. Plus all the freight movement, personal baggage and inflight catering and servicing. To secure adequate food products for Bahrain, the greater part of all food produce that is available on the market (93%) is flown in on a daily basis. The dependency on aviation is long-term but the ground handling is an option for energy efficient initiatives.

There is an opportunity to move from fossil fuel vehicles to those running on clean such as hybrid, electric, bioethanol, biogas or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. As road transportation is a major contributor of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, greener, cleaner vehicles are a desirable consideration for protecting a fragile environment.

Role of Environmental Awareness

Greater awareness of renewable energy sources is necessary before developers can even start to appeal to the business sector to adopt viable alternatives of transportation energy. New airport development and expansion projects need to assess the feasibility of alternative mode of transportation which in turn will require electrical charging locations as well as hydrogen filling stations [2]. This can also be marketed to eco-friendly rental companies to avail themselves of green initiatives.

Freight and delivery corporation could also avail themselves of alternative power sources as petrol subsides are reduced over the coming years. Ultimately, sustainable energy sources will become more attractive. Together, a sustainable transportation model along with other sustainable life-cycle models will all help reduce the carbon footprint of the airport industry.

Airports are considered ideal sites for promoting electricity-powered vehicles because one has a captive audience. If the options are already determined for the clients, the clients experience the use of electric cars in a win-win situation.

Rapid Increase in Passenger Flow

During the month of November, 2016, almost 674,000 passengers passed through the Bahrain airport [3]. There was over 8,500 total aircraft movement and almost 20,000 pieces of cargo and mail in the 30 day period. (Data source: Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications). Based on the November data, the numbers could be extrapolated out for a 12-month period with over 8 million passengers per year, over 100,000 total aircraft movement and 240,000 pieces of cargo and mail.

Similar information based on the official Airport Councils International (ACI) statistics from the World Airport Traffic Reports for the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015 [3]. The reports indicate a yearly average of 7.8 million passengers with over 95,350  total aircraft movements and over 304,000 metric tons of cargo. The steady increase in usage of airport facilities [4] is driving the modernization plans for the Bahrain International Airport to be designed for an annual passenger flow of 14 million persons [5].

Heathrow Airport – An Upcoming Role Model

Heathrow Airport in London handles more than 76 million passengers each year. Heathrow is already conducting trials for electric buses and personal electric cars, as part of a sustainable model, which requires a major input for developing recharging infrastructure. Such a large airport in the heart of a metropolitan centre has the advantage of a well developed public transportation infrastructure.

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Both travelers and employees use the public transport systems which allows the advanced planning in other sustainable green technology for other transportation systems. Passenger car parks as well as company car parks have charging points for electric cars. The airport strategic plan is to have all cars and vans electric rather than fossil fuel powered by 2020.

Perspectives for Bahrain

Aviation transportation is vital for Bahrain’s survival and daily operations. Therefore, a eco-friendly infrastructure is a viable option for implementing green technology in the form of onsite transportation. However, the modernization of the Bahrain International Airport has limited its eco-friendly inclusion to ground service equipment such as the transformer substations, pre-conditioned air systems and pop-up units and the 400Hz power supply system all contracted to Cavotec Middle East [5].

This is one step towards achieving the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) decision to implement a global carbon offset for the aviation industry. It would be great to see the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications reach out to other green initiatives for the modernization of the national airport.



1. Can airports be green?

2. How airports uniquely placed to boost the adoption of electric cars.

3. Airports Council International, World Airport Traffic Reports, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2020, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Traffic by Calendar Year, Official ACI Statistics.

4. Bahrain International Airport witnesses a 25% increase in passenger movement

5. New Passenger Terminal Building, Bahrain International Airport, Manama, Bahrain

Saudi Arabia’s Road to Fuel Economy

Saudi Arabia is a private car-oriented society, and has one of the world’s highest per capita fuel consumption in the transportation sector. This is primarily due to lack of efficient public transportation and current fuel subsidy policy. The country is witnessing an escalating demand on its domestic energy needs and it is imperative on policymakers to devise policies for conservation of energy resources and reduction of GHGs emissions in the transportation sector. Adapting energy-efficient fuel standards will help Saudi Arabia country to bridge the gap with the developed countries. The enforcement mechanism for the establishment of Saudi fuel economy standards will lead to achievement of strategic energy conservation objectives.

Energy intensity in Saudi Arabia has set high records reflecting the growth of the economy and the increasing demand on fossil energy in the domestic use and heavy industries operations. Energy intensity in the Kingdom was twice the world average in 2010 and with unbalanced growth between energy use and economy, this should rang the bell for the Saudi government to adapt a bundle of energy policies that curtail the increasing growth of energy demand domestically.

CAFE Standards

Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standard (CAFE) was first enacted after the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in the USA. That policy was due to energy security concerns and environmental objectives. The USA current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger’s vehicle and 20.7mpg for light trucks. Similarly to the USA CAFE objectives, the Kingdom approach is to reduce gasoline consumption and induce conservation and increasing efficiency of the light-duty vehicles (LDV).The proposed standard mandates require that all new and used passenger vehicles and light trucks either imported or locally manufacture should comply with new fuel standards. The framework for this law to be effective will start by January 1, 2016 and fully phased out by December 31, 2025. The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC) and other entities including the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, Saudi Customs, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry have been asked to monitor the implementation of the CAFE standards.

The purpose of the fuel standards is to commit the light-duty vehicle manufactures sell their cars in the kingdom and comply with the Saudi CAFE. This standard has a double dividends from the automobile manufacturer side its incentivize them to introduce the up-to-date efficiency technologies and cut the supply the low-efficient technologies to the Saudi market. The Saudi CAFE standard targets an improving in the overall fuel economy with an average of 4% annually. This would lift up the Kingdom’s fuel economy LDVs from its current level of 12 km per liter to 19 km per liter by 2025.

The Saudi CAFE standard shows a focused strategy to setting long-term standards over the course of a given time frame and its committed efforts to manage both newly imported or used LDVs. According to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud, the Saudi transportation sector consumes about 23 percent of the total energy in the kingdom and about 12 million vehicles consume about 811,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel per day. Moreover, there are 7 LDVs entering the market every year with a forecast to reach 20 million by 2030.


Saudi Arabia’s CAFE standard is a means to stimulate energy efficiency and encourage resource conservation and contribute to the environment. This will enable consumers to save money, reduce fossil fuel consumption and strengthen the Kingdom’s role in the fight against climate change.

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Energy Efficiency in MENA – A Tool to Reduce GHG Emissions

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the largest oil-exporting region in the world. Around 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, electricity generation, industrial sector and domestic energy consumption. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Without a change in energy policies and energy consumption behavior, MENA‘s energy-related GHG emissions will continue to grow. Presently, MENA countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to meet their energy requirement which is a major challenge in climate change mitigation efforts. However it also encourages local governments to craft policies and adapt stringent environmental regulations to reduce the GHG emissions.

Energy Efficiency Prospects

There is a great potential for MENA region to cut the projected GHG emissions growth by adopting energy-efficiency programs in commercial industrial and domestic sector. MENA governments need to create a policy environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation through both consumers and businesses. The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

The MENA region has great ambitious plans and already adapted an efficient energy programs aiming to achieve real energy efficiency gains related to environment. An immediate gain of adapting energy efficiency policy is to be seen in elevating consumers’ energy awareness, improving energy products procurement and services, reducing pollutant and saving money.

MENA governments should put energy efficiency at the top of energy policy agenda with a committed goal to reduce GHG emissions through energy efficiency programs. For example, Obama’s administration has focused on the importance of energy efficiency investment programs as an engine of economic growth and environment conservation in the United States. According to President Obama, “energy efficiency is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner.” 

Energy Efficiency Outlook

There is a wide array of measures which could help MENA countries in promoting and implementing policies to moderate increasing energy demand and reduce pollution in the generating, transmitting, and distributing energy from power plants.  Energy conservation may not yet be a way of life in the Middle East but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength in the region. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region.

Across the MENA region, there is a growing interest in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, which could enable regional countries to adopt a green economy and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. In the transportation sector there are many energy-efficient adaptations to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, like public transportation, carpooling, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. MENA countries can adapt new alternatives to fossil fuels such as fuel cells, bioethanol and biogas. 

The linkage between energy efficiency adaptations and GHG emission is crucial in the fight against global warming. Emerging technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and large industrial sources, and then injection into deep underground geological formations for long-term storage. CCS can not only reduce carbon emissions from power generation sector but also expand renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency.

Another attractive energy conservation method is Smart Grid which involves modernizing the system of transmitting electricity all the way from generation to end use. Unlike the tradition electricity meters, the smart meters provides consumers with situational awareness about how much electricity are consuming per unit of output. Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels.


The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by mass deployment of energy-efficient systems. An improved energy efficiency plan for MENA region (in both supply and use) will help in mitigating the domestic and global environmental impact of energy by reducing both atmospheric particulate matter and GHG emissions.

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