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What Went Hong? Hope for Net Zero.

October 25, 2023

By James Hong

In a recent edition of Canadian Contractor, an article talked about Canada’s transition to net-zero and the use of storing carbon in concrete. The bad news is that the concept, idea, and responsibility to accomplish net-zero can feel overwhelming especially in an industry known for high carbon emissions.

The good news is that net-zero is being achieved in Oslo, Norway and continues to increase and thrive in its efforts and outcomes. What started as a concept for zero emission construction sites, just a mere few years ago, was achieved and has continued to have further successes with effects directly improving other industries and the quality of life for the citizens.

Tackling carbon emissions is no small feat. The buy-in by government, manufacturing, business, and regulation is staggering however when enough incentives are presented to all involved the uphill road rapidly becomes a direct route to success.

Oslo had no electric construction equipment prior to their first pilot project just three years ago. What started as one part of their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent by the year 2030 is now a major contributor for reduction affecting the construction industry, electric vehicle manufacturing and sales and quality of life.

It took a comprehensive Climate Budget policy with targets measured in CO2 emissions, an aggressive procurement drive and cooperation from all stakeholders including those in construction willing to adapt and take a ‘make it work’ attitude.

Marit Hepsø, the city of Oslo’s sustainability manager for the Building and Construction Procurement Department, speaks about power charging challenges and information on tapping the grid. I asked him how zero emission construction equipment is charged and by what means, grid verses charging station. Hepsø elaborates; it varies depending on the capacity in the grid locally. Oslo have now experience with perhaps about 50 emission free construction sites and they have been different with regards to electricity supply. Some contractors have used battery and/or mobile superchargers, others connected directly to the grid. Electricity supply is a complex process, arranging temporary electricity supplies, especially 400 V this may lead to delays.

A good process is to involve power grid operators in early planning and throughout the project. Charging problems and limitations of the supply grid may lead to increased charging times. Consider the composition of the machine fleet by choosing battery and cable/battery-powered electric machinery to resolve charging capacity problems. Other ways to reduce the load on the supply grid may be through the use of a battery container, the use of district heating to heat and dry structures and arranging one’s own energy generation in a building project’s early phase.”

Heidi Sørensen, the brains behind Oslo’s success, reports on New York’s recent climate budget announcement along with London and Edmonton this past fall. At last count, there are 40 cities with plans for a climate budget and more global sharing by webinars, talks, planning committees and conferences, are making the move to accomplish a net-zero future.

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