Bellona gets green light for projects to electrify construction machinery

Bellona's vision of emissions free construction sites Credit: Bellona

OSLO – 15 December, a critical step was made towards emission free construction sites: Two pilot projects initiated by Bellona in collaboration with several partners were granted Norwegian state funding. One of them is the development of a 30 tonne electric digger/excavator, while the second includes electrification of a concrete truck and a concrete pump truck.

Pilot-E is a collaboration between three state-funded organisations, the Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway, and Enova. The program is modelled on the ARPA-E program developed in the U.S. to bring new technologies faster to market.

Bellona is leading and initiating the development of new solutions, and shall do this together with relevant partners in business who are in for the change. “We are happy that Pilot-E recognises the need to realise emission free construction sites”, comments Bellona leader Frederic Hauge. “Today, emission free construction sites are one step closer to reality”.

Moreover, it is a leap into the future: building the world’s first battery-electric construction machines of this size. It is also the beginning of tackling an important source of greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.

Greener buildings and lower emissions

Building and construction activities are mainly diesel-powered, whether it comes to digging, loading, molding or sheet piling. Only minor tasks in small projects can be handled with battery-electric solutions, as existing machinery is small and rarely used. This is reflected in the statistics: diesel use in construction machinery accounts for about 20% of all CO2 emissions in Oslo.

DSC_8057 Christian Eriksen, Bellona Credit: Kjetil Grude Flekkøy, Bellona

Major construction work is in the pipeline for the coming years, while emissions must decline. Norway is committed to cutting 20 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030, equivalent to 1.25 times the emissions from the entire transport sector in Norway in 2015. “This puts pressure on the construction business, and with help from these projects, we can implement some of the solutions that are highly needed” says Bellona’s senior advisor on energy, Christian Eriksen.

Potential for the future and new industry

In the development of the electric digger municipal property owner Omsorgsbygg in Oslo is a central partner. Oslo City Councillor Geir Lippestad believes many interesting opportunities are present in the work on emissions reductions for construction sites.

“Solutions like these will contribute to better local air quality in Oslo, lower greenhouse gas emissions and the development of new industry. There are many opportunities”, says Lippestad. He emphasises that Oslo will continue to lead in this development, both nationally and internationally.

In the other project, for the development of the electric concrete and concrete pump truck, the consortium is led by company NorBetong. They are committed to a zero emission vision alongside their parent company Heidelberg Cement. “It is challenging, but definitely realistic,” comments NorBetong project leader Stein Hov.

The transportation and delivery of concrete is contributing to a large portion of emissions from construction sites. Data from Norwegian government’s key advisor in construction and property affairs Statsbygg show that concrete pumping, cranes and diggers are the major sources to tackle.

betongbil-betongpumpe Connected concrete- and concrete pump truck Credit: Norbetong

“Emissions from heavy machinery have a large impact on a project’s climate budget, influence the city environment and contribute to noise and air pollution. If we succeed in electrification of this type of heavy machinery, we can easily transfer the knowledge to other types of machines”, comments Statsbygg’s senior engineer Jonas Vevatne.

From national towards international

Oslo has particularly ambitious climate goals and aims to cut emissions with 95% by 2030. Construction is another piece of the puzzle, an important investment in reaching these targets. Moreover, making it into reality and sharing knowledge can enable the start-up of similar projects in EU countries, and contribute to lower local air- and noise pollution in cities.

DSC_4992 Bellona event at COP23 in Germany this November Credit: Olav Øye, Bellona

This is also a topic that Bellona highlighted at this year’s climate summit in Bonn, COP23, at an event on the role of green public procurement for transport and construction materials.

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