10 Apr 2009

Airport's solar panel nicked

I've just heard that Climate campaigner Kev claims to have the solar panel from the Staverton Airport sign!

He writes: "We will hand your impressive solar power system back when: • The council confirms that if the ceilings are breached then operations at the airport will be discontinued for the measurement period. • When the council confirms a reduction target for the total CO2 emissions that reflects the latest scientific evidence presented at the Copenhagen Conference."

See the campaigner's full comment here (photo above pinched from his website). This week has seen the Airport's Green Management policy discussed at Scrutiny in both Gloucester and Cheltenham - you can see below more about the issues raised with them. It is great that councillors are now insisting on such a plan which sees a CO2 emissions limit of 4,000 tonnes but as Kev writes of the proposed limit: "Unless there is a serious restriction on operations if these limits are breached, the Green Management plan is an irrelevance. At this point there appears to be no sanctions.

Furthermore there are no specific year-on-year CO2 reductions, other than the vague statement “Ensuring that climate change issues are addressed in future plans for the airport.”

This does really make a nonsense of it. Here is how The Citizen have reported it yesterday:

BOSSES at Gloucestershire Airport have been told they must keep carbon emissions to 2007 levels if they want new safety plans approved. Managers from the airport in Staverton have been consulting with a working group jointly set up by Cheltenham borough and Gloucester city councils to come up with a policy on carbon emissions covering noise pollution, energy use in the airport buildings and how staff travel to work. Both councils have agreed to support the airport's safety plans, which involve increasing the size of the runway clearance area, provided it can come up with an acceptable set of policies. The airport says the 30 metre extension is critical to enable them to meet safety regulations and enable commercial flights to continue.

The airport has set itself a target of flights not exceeding 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is just a few tonnes above its 2007 emissions of 3,979 tonnes. That figure is equivalent to 0.17 per cent of all emissions in 2005/06 for the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury areas according to DEFRA figures.

Airport director of operations Darren Lewington said: "We think this is a realistic target for emissions from aircraft. The important thing is that this is a ceiling and if our runway safety plans are approved, the limit means we will not be overrun by Easyjet or Ryanair as some people might think we will be."

As well as working on emissions, the green policy restricts flights to 95,000 per year excluding emergency- related flying. Only 1.5 per cent of the total of flights using the airport will be allowed to fly out of normal hours, which end at 7.30pm in summer.
Mr Lewington said: "The emissions target is from aircraft using the airport and that's harder for us to control, but we are confident we can achieve a 10 per cent cut in carbon use linked to our ground operations."

Managers have hired the Severn Wye Energy Agency to make recommendations on how to use less energy. The company will fit low-energy bulbs throughout the airport, look for sources of renewable energy and investigate the use of controlling lights by infra-red detection which will cut energy use by 90 per cent in times of low occupation.

Richard Conibere of Cheltenham Friends of the Earth said: "It's a small step in the right direction, but this policy is currently too weak to make a real difference. If the expansion was really about a safety project we wouldn't have a green policy that allows for a significant growth in flights."
The policy will be examined by Cheltenham Borough Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting today at 6pm in the Municipal Offices. Gloucester City Council's Cabinet will consider the report at its meeting on April 15 and Cheltenham Borough's Cabinet will do the same on April 21.

As another campaigner commented on the article: "Airport remarks are, as ever, a quite accomplished piece of greenwash."

Campaigners have never alleged that Ryanair and Easyjet would be using the site. But we have said that the development could allow for operators like FlyBe and for Manx 2 to expand their services.

The fact that airport emissions account for 0.17% of the total for local districts is irrelevant. In the grand scheme of things my personal emissions account for a miniscule fraction of the whole. As do the emissions of all of us. As I have noted before in this blog Glos Airport's emissions are indeed relatively small - the point is that the onus must be on reduction rather than expansion. We have to cut emissions by 80% plus so allowing this business to increase would mean others have to cut emissions even more - that is seriously unfair for a business that supports big corporations, private jets and trying to expand the holiday flight market.

The promise of a 10% cut on ground emissions is laughable. One of the campaigners scrutiny questions revealed that ground emissions account for only 4% of emissions so they're promising a 'stunning' reduction of 0.4% of overall emissions!

Puzzle solved?

It's been a puzzle to us for a while how the policy can say that flights are to increase by around 15,000 yet emissions will remain more or less the same - a 25% increase in flights will surely imply a 25% increase in emissions at least. However one campaigner thinks the answer might lie in how they have worked out the baseline emissions figure for 2007. The figure is calculated by taking the busiest 30 day period of the year and multiplying it by 12. By using the busiest time the figure is therefore inflated above the actual emissions for 2007, giving the illusion that nothing is changing.

It is great however that the Airport's plans to offset emissions with grass growing next to the runway have disappeared! Also their ridiculous comparisons with motorway emissions that were laughable. Establishing the policy has been a victory in itself for campaigners but alot of it may well end up being tokenism unless their are real sanctions - and they are still expanding significantly - maybe not as much as they wanted but it is still alot and I am not confident the Councils will really stick to their guns.

I can't believe that it was some 6 years ago I wrote a letter against these plans and was ridiculed by an editorial in The Citizen along with a letter or two. We have moved a long way to even be talking about Green Management Strategies and can fill Council chambers with campaigners on a regular basis - but this is a sad day - councillors have failed to grasp the urgency or need to cut emissions.

I'll finish this with some of the issues that were shared with councillors before the meetings regarding emissions by one campaigner:

1. The CO2 cap is based on calculations relating to the busiest 30 day period in 2007, which are then multiplied by twelve. This inflates the CO2 baseline by (I calculate) at least 20%, allowing the airport to increase traffic CO2 by 25% before they reach the cap. To be representative the figures should be based on a more typical 30 day period, or the results should be scaled to take account of the disproportionate amount number of flights in the period chosen.
2. The green policy builds in 'flexibility' for the Airport. This allow : CO2 emissions to increase by 25% (see 1 above). The number of flights to increase from 80,000 (2008 figure) to 95,000 - an increase of 18.75%. The number of out of hours flight to potentially increase to 1425 (1.5% of 95,000) from the 2007/2008 figures quoted in the green policy of 708 (0.9% of 75,711) - an increase of over 100%. The number of 'night time' (23:00-0600) flights, which is currently far less than the 2007/2008 figure of 57 quoted in the green policy for flights 'more than two hours outside opening hours' would be permitted to increase to 100, at least a 100% increase. A green policy that permits such significant increases in traffic, emissions, out of hours and night-time flights over and above current levels does little to reassure local residents - and does not appear very 'green'.
3. The flight caps exclude Police, medical and other emergency-related flights. The policy does no define exactly what this means; On many occasions out-of-hours and night-time flights take place involving Police/medical aircraft that are not on Police/Emergency business. In particular test flying of aircraft undergoing maintenance often occurs out of hours, but I understand that the Airport log this as Police/Medical. The caps should apply to this 'non-emergency' activity.

4. The noise figures provided by the Airport do not take into account the lower approach height of Aircraft on runway 27 due the to relocation of the threshold nearer to the Airport perimeter.

5. The green policy does not make clear what mechanism or sanctions would be used to ensure that the Airport complies with the limits set by the policy.


Elvin said...

Excellent Research Work!
I Buy Solar Panels

rob grom said...

Nice article. were they looking at 200 watt solar panel systems? I don't think that would be enough juice to do anything for an airport