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Northern Norway: A European roadmap to climate-neutral regional air traffic

Northern Norway

Northern Norway is one of the world's most demanding regions for air traffic. Winter weather and a demanding topography require the highest possible competence from airlines, airports and world-leading ATC technology. The picture is from Tromsø Airport, Northern Norway's most important airport.

Northern Norway is pioneering a series of aviation development programmes which will put it on the fast track to aviation net zero emissions, writes Einar Sorensen, aviation adviser, Oslo, Norway.

Few other countries are better placed than Norway to head the transition to a climate-neutral future, especially in aviation. The country is on the doorstep to the Arctic and is a leader in Europe for renewable energy, offshore oil and natural gas. This is an excellent starting point for supplying European aviation with climate-neutral energy and fuel – crucial to the future of aviation on our continent.

This forms the background to the ground-breaking project Zero Emission Regional Aviation Northern Norway – ZERA-NN which aims to contribute to climate neutral aviation in the Arctic region, including Northern Norway, between 2030-2035, or when technology permits a practical transformation.

To achieve this, the project has brought together the most important players from regional authorities, the energy sector, business and research and development organisations in a unique national and international collaboration to ensure that Norway will have a fullout climate-neutral aviation offer within 2040, which Avinor has set up as a target year.

The project has entered into agreements with the German and French aircraft industry and is now discussing larger cooperation packages with other European regions, for example, with the Airport Regions Council in Brussels.

Behind the project is the Energy in the North industry cluster – which includes the region's energy sector – the Bodø Airport Development Agency – with its stronghold in developing regional aviation – and Lofoten-The Green Islands 2030, the first organisation in Norway to make a binding decision to offer fully climate-neutral aviation as soon as practically possible

Aviation is vital to most business and social activities in Lofoten, and in Northern Norway as a whole. That is the driving force behind Avinor’s deployment of remotelyoperated control towers (ROT) at airports in Northern Norway, with Bodø ATC as the national centre for this innovative development. ROT technology is seen as one of the main enablers to increasingly strong demands for cost-effective operations.

The north norwegian project is built with clear goals

First, the region’s 26 airports – out of a total of 45 with regular air traffic in Norway – should be launched as a network for testing and approval of new climateneutral aircraft and the corresponding ground-based infrastructure. Northern Norwegian airports have stateof- the-art ATC and navigation solutions which provide an exceptionally high level of on-time performance and flight safety.

"Northern Norwegian airports have state-of-the-art ATC and navigation solutions which provide an exceptionally high level of on-time performance and flight safety"

Second, the region is to be developed into one of Europe’s leading energy producers. Modern high-efficiency facilities producing 100% renewable electricity have been built very close to airports strategically located on the coast where most people live – providing a firstclass starting point for the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), hydrogen or clean electric power for powering potentially 100% electrically-powered aircraft.

The Lofoten Region with its short-runway airports will be launched as a pilot area for the practical introduction of climate-neutral aircraft, energy supply to airports and operational procedures adapted to the requirements of the region. This is a critical factor in Lofoten becoming one of Europe's most important destinations for future climate-neutral tourism.

Lofoten

However, ZERA-NN is not just a regional project. From its start in 2022 the aim of the programme has been to serve the rest of Norway and European regions. The project has been designed so that the results can easily be applied elsewhere. The project therefore has an extensive international element, with delegation trips and participation in important exhibitions and conferences.

This programme is a clear recognition of the European Commission and European authorities’ avowed commitment to a transition to climate-neutral aviation, extending cooperation as never before between all actors with an interest in this area. This covers not just discussions but investments in joint projects and the commercialisation of new technology, which will be so important in transforming the sector.

Northern Norway is an important Arctic region and the gateway to Arctic areas for Europe. Nowhere else is climate change felt as strongly as in the Arctic, where warming is three times as great as the global average. Climate change in the Arctic also has enormous consequences for the rest of the globe. It is therefore important for the whole of Europe that transformation programmes in Northern Norway are successful, because solutions here have a direct influence on the rest of Europe’s development.

By taking a leading role internationally in restructuring aviation through sustainable fuels and electrification, Norway will have a climate effect far beyond the country's borders.

It will create a major competitive advantage for value creation and industry in Norway in terms of sustainability in fuel, hydrogen and electrification. It will provide a transition to fossil-free aviation, securing jobs both in the aviation industry, exports, the tourism industry and business in general.

Technology development in aviation takes time. A demanding adjustment creates a need for predictability and a long planning horizon; Norwegian industry is a strong participant in the aviation industry, especially through the SESAR programme and wider ATM development.

"The Lofoten Region with its shortrunway airports will be launched as a pilot area for the practical introduction of climate-neutral aircraft, energy supply to airports and operational procedures adapted to the requirements"

Norway performed a similar role when it led the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) years ago, despite the fact that Norway has no car industry to speak of. EVs today have an 80% market share of new car sales in Norway. Other larger countries are following Norway’s example, resulting in an EV market share showing significant global growth, reaching 14% of all new car sales in 2022.

In electric shipping, Norway has used a combination of the carrot and the stick to ensure that in only eight years between 2015 to 2023, 52 of Norway’s 228 ferry operations have switched from fossil to electric propulsion.

Northern Norway has 482,000 inhabitants, or approximately 9% of Norway's population. Energy production makes up 16% of Norway's total energy base, with a production of 25 Terawatt-hour (TWh), of which 23 TWh is hydropower driven and 2 TWh windpower derived. The region also has 21 TWh in multi seasonal storage capacity in the form of hydropower dams. The potential for offshore wind is also vast.

"By taking a leading role internationally in restructuring aviation through sustainable fuels and electrification, Norway will have a climate effect far beyond the country's borders"

This provides the basis for a programme of full-scale production of power-to-liquid SAFs, blue hydrogen and ammonia. In the period 2022 to 2028, between EUR 8 billion and EUR 13 billion will be invested in a series of state-of-the-art production sites. This will produce 569,000 tonnes of green ammonia, 3 billion tonnes of blue ammonia, 3 million tonnes of PtLmethanol, 180,000 tonnes of PtL SAF and 29 Gigawatthour (GWh)/year of battery production.

This huge production potential has attracted a lot of attention. Norwegian Airlines, one of Europe's leading low-cost airlines, has become a co-owner of the SAF production plant in Mosjøen, located in the south of Nordland county.

Two new large airports are being built in the region, Bodø New Airport and the Polar Circle Airport at Mo i Rana, symbolising the country’s confidence in the future. These airports are to be operational by 2028- 2030 and will be examples of the new generation of climate-neutral airports in which Europe must invest.

This will also be one of the most important topics for a large international conference in Bodø on 13 June 2024, where the focus will be on Europe's investment in climate-neutral regional aviation. The conference is part of a programme around Bodø’s position as Europe's capital of culture in 2024.

"If you can succeed with climateneutral aviation in a region with such strong climatic and topographical focus as Northern Norway, then you can succeed anywhere in the world"

Leaders from the European Commission, aviation organisations, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and others in transport are expected to participate. The underlying message of the event is that if you can succeed with climate-neutral aviation in a region with such strong climatic and topographical focus as Northern Norway, then you can succeed anywhere in the world.

Einar Sorensen

Einar Sorensen, Aviation Advisor

has for over 20 years been working with aviation projects out of Toulouse, the global aviation centre. From 2005 to 2023 he headed ATM Norway, a branch organisation of Norwegian ATM industries and R&D within the SESAR programme. Later he was responsible for coordination of technological projects between Toulouse Metropole and the Oslo region in Norway. He is now engaged by Bodø Airport Development Agency to coordinate project development with international partners.

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