The civil aviation sector in India is focusing on sustainability and net zero carbon emission, which are the needs of the hour. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, air travel produces about 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Key metrics for greenfield airport include sustainability, carbon dioxide emission, and disposal in terms of power generation. One of the several initiatives by the Airports Authority of India is the installation of solar power plants under net metering/captive modes at various airports for generation and self-consumption of green and renewable energy. Further, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has taken initiatives to work towards carbon neutrality and achieve net zero carbon emission at airports in the country, as well as organised knowledge sharing sessions to standardise the carbon accounting and reporting framework of Indian airports as well as to create awareness on climate change mitigation. Further, airport operators with scheduled operations have been advised to map the carbon emissions at their respective airports and to work towards carbon neutrality and net zero emission in a phased manner. The government is aiming to make most Indian airports carbon-neutral by December 2024, and achieve net zero emission by 2030. Reportedly, India also plans to set up 30,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity alongside 50,000 MW of solar capacity.
Experience so far
Since 2008, when Bangalore airport commenced operations, the regulatory framework has stabilised. The framework for concession agreements and the tariff determination method have evolved. The airport privatisation programme has matured. This has lent confidence to investors.
When progressing with the planning and design activities of airport projects, developers need to engage with various key partners, and reach out to airlines, passenger representatives and ground handlers to understand pain points.
The challenges faced by airport projects include land acquisition, financing and building partnerships with stakeholders. Moreover, the pandemic has affected the timelines for various airport projects and it has become difficult to determine whether a project is on track with respect to the parameters mentioned in the concession agreement. An area that remains neglected is harmonics. For instance, when infrastructure is made resilient, frequency drivers are added to make it harmonic, such as light emitting diodes. There is a need to do a complete harmonic study so that critical equipment is not impacted. Critical equipment in airports is very expensive. So, analytics should be carried out to help operators understand the nature and location of deficiencies, if any. Operators should then be able to correct these deficiencies.
Noida International Airport project
The Noida International Airport is an upcoming greenfield airport in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh. The airport will be adjacent to the Yamuna Expressway and will connect Delhi and Noida to Agra and Lucknow. This will be the second international airport in India’s National Capital Region. The airport is 100 per cent owned by Zurich Airport. The project entails an investment of over Rs 57 billion. The airport will have a capacity to handle 12 million passengers per annum (mppa), with the potential to be expanded to over 70 mppa. The airport is expected to become operational by 2024.
In November 2019, Zurich Airport won the bid to build and operate the Noida International Airport. After winning the contract, Zurich Airport launched a design competition in 2020 under unique and challenging constraints in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The competition required architects to prepare and present their designs remotely. Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) and Noida International Airport Limited signed a concession agreement in October 2020. Subsequently, YIAPL and the Uttar Pradesh government signed a shareholders’ agreement in July 2021 and YIAPL received right of way and the licence to construct the project. The project received financial closure in August 2021 when YIAPL received a credit sanction for Rs 37.25 billion from the State Bank of India. The foundation stone for the project was laid on November 25, 2021.
The concept and design for the airport was prepared virtually, without any physical interaction. Remote collaborations were carried out on plans and building information modelling (BIM) was adopted. Two focus areas of the airport are making use of the digital technologies available and operating on a net zero emission basis. It will be a modern, digital, user-friendly airport, which will provide ease of orientation for passengers. Further, the airport will provide seamless integration of public and personal transport, which in turn will provide quick turnaround and transfer times. It will provide adequate night parking stands for airlines, and dedicated cargo premises with separate access for air cargo and logistics.
Recently, the contract for designing, building and operating the fuel farm was awarded to Indian Oil Skytanking Limited. Site preparation and early works for the project have started. The boundary wall is being constructed to secure the perimeter. Access for utilities such as power has been provided and steps have been taken to divert traffic from the site.
In a recent development, YIAPL selected Tata Projects Limited to undertake the engineering, procurement and construction of the airport. Tata Projects will construct the terminal, runway, airside infrastructure, roads, utilities, landside facilities and other ancillary buildings.
There are various opportunities for commercial development at the airport. Further, plans are in place to develop multimodal cargo facilities on more than 80 acres of area. Going forward, there are plans to connect the airport with the metro and the high speed rail network.
India has focused programmes for capacity addition and accelerating the energy transition. There is a huge potential for use of solar and wind energy. Thus, airport utilities will be designed in such a way that they reduce carbon dioxide emission and minimise overall power consumption.
With the advent of solar and wind energy, both producers and consumers of electricity have gained prominence. Moreover, the grid is going to become more complex, so automated solutions are required to make infrastructure more resilient and sustainable.
The way ahead
The health of infrastructure needs to be carefully and periodically monitored. In this, contactless predictive maintenance plays an important role. Moreover, a lot of data is being generated at any given time. There is a need to ensure that the data coalesces into meaningful analytics, which will be useful for analysing the industry.
The civil aviation sector in India has been very resilient, which has bolstered confidence that the industry will rebound soon. Going forward, the aviation industry, among others, will become part of integrated townships. Strong passenger demands will support airport infrastructure as well as air cargo across the country. It remains critical to provide the necessary inputs and architecture to make integrated townships smart, safe and sustainable. Airport efficiency, sustainability and profitability will coexist. In the near future, sustainable infrastructure will be required not only for airports, but for airlines and the overall aviation industry. w
Based on inputs from Christoph Schnellmann, CEO, Noida International Airport, and Sanjay Sudhakaran, MD and CEO, Schneider Electric Infrastructure, at a recent Airports in India conference