Type to search


Edmonton: More than just an airport


MXD’s Chris LeTourneur highlights the many dimensions of Edmonton International Airport’s innovative economic and sustainable development initiatives.

As hosts of this year’s SMART Airports and Regions, Conference and Exhibition, Edmonton International Airport will be showing the world how it’s more than just an airport, it’s an innovative economically diversified Airport City Sustainability Campus.

Edmonton International Airport recently evolved its brand from EIA to YEG, leveraging the brand equity of its globally recognised IATA airport code. Using a social media scavenger hunt, YEG stimulated awareness of this rebranding by posting the YEG letters throughout the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Operated by Edmonton Airports Authority (EAA), YEG has optimised its 7,000 acres (2,800 hectares) of property not only to facilitate air connectivity and operations as an airport for everyone, but also to attract a diverse range of businesses generating significant employment and benefits for the Region.

YEG calls this land use and economic development framework its Airport City Sustainability Campus.

YEG is the region’s economic anchor

YEG is the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s most significant economic anchor, connecting Edmonton and the Province of Alberta to the world.

Myron Keehn, YEG’s president and CEO, notes: “YEG is an economic engine for the Region and Alberta which is not only a place where passengers come and go, but a nexus of diversified economic activity connecting people, products and innovation.”

The important role of YEG is amplified by Malcom Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global (the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s Economic Development Authority). He says: “YEG plays a critical role in Port Alberta – an inland port located in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, where air, road, rail and pipelines converge to create an international cargo and logistics hub.”

Bruce notes that “YEG is a huge economic driver for Alberta and the Edmonton Region – stimulating economic growth and moving people, goods and ideas around the world.”

In terms of YEG’s economic diversification, Bruce says:“YEG is leading the charge in innovation by advancing the development of autonomous transportation – both in the air and on the ground.

“The airport is a critical enabler for many of the region’s sectors including renewable energy, hydrogen, clean technology, aerospace, life sciences, food and agriculture, and advanced manufacturing. As a leader in sustainability, YEG is demonstrating that Canada’s path to net zero runs through the Edmonton region.”

A unique feature of YEG is its active participation attracting international companies while incubating local businesses. To do this, YEG not only views these companies as lease tenants, but as partners. With many of these businesses, YEG has established partnership structures whereby YEG is an active participant.

YEG’s climate change pledge

In 2021, YEG became the first airport in the world to join ‘The Climate Pledge’, committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The Climate Pledge is an international initiative for organisations and operations who are committed to meeting the goals of the ‘Paris Agreement on Climate’ ten years ahead of schedule, and was created by Amazon and the environmental organisation ‘Global Optimism’, in 2019.

As part of The Climate Pledge, YEG is committed to three primary areas of action:

  • Regular Reporting measuring greenhouse gas emissions
  • Carbon Elimination implementing decarbonisation strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations.
  • Credible Offsets to neutralise any remaining emissions to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

As part of YEG’s dedication to sustainability, it has partnered with local and global companies to identify opportunities for reducing climate change emissions while facilitating sustainable innovation and economic development.

YEG’s facilitation of the Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB

One of YEG’s most significant sustainability initiatives involves its leadership and participation in the Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB.

Created by an alliance with government, indigenous, academic and economic development leaders, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB launches the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s hydrogen economy to ensure long-term economic competitiveness as the world shifts towards a low-carbon future to address climate change.

The HUB has stimulated 25 projects involving the production, transportation and end use of hydrogen, and carbon capture/storage, putting the Edmonton Metropolitan Region on a net-zero path and creating a sustainable green future for Alberta’s energy industry.

It also establishes the foundation for YEG and the Region to be global leaders in the production and export of low-carbon hydrogen, while serving as a blueprint for how other regions can leverage the hydrogen opportunity to build a Canada-wide hydrogen economy.

“YEG is a leader of the Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB using its Airport City Sustainability Campus as a living laboratory and foundation for fostering innovation, new technologies and sustainable operations supporting the decarbonisation of transportation and logistics,” enthuses Keehn.

YEG is actively bringing together companies from around the world and locally to form partnerships, test new technologies and showcase the power of emissions-free hydrogen fuels.

In April 2022, it established a memoranda of understanding for partnerships with the following companies involved in green hydrogen technology and sustainable aviation fuels:

  1. JOIN (Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development, an arm of the Japanese Government)
    Encouraging transportation, urban development and airport operations incorporating future mobility, autonomous systems, hydrogen, renewable energy, and cargo logistics development within YEG’s International Cargo Hub and Airport City Sustainability Campus for Japanese companies to pilot technology solutions facilitating international business.
  2. Mitsui
    Decarbonising transportation by piloting green and hydrogen technologies to explore opportunities in cargo and logistics, agri-business, food and retail distribution, serving as a demonstration hub of Mitsui’s technologies.
  3. Letenda – Mitsui
    Piloting, demonstrating and launching Letenda hydrogen buses in North America, with advanced manufacturing and assembly at YEG, establishing a Hydrogen Centre of Excellence to service parts distribution for Western Canada.
  4. FirstElement Fuel (FEF)
    Developing hydrogen infrastructure at YEG and in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region for decarbonising transportation with the goal of scaling the Hydrogen Hub model to other global airports and municipalities.
  5. Toyota Canada
    Launching hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (Toyota Mirai) for airport mobility, rental cars, taxis, and ride sharing, with the goal of decarbonising transportation and creating a Hydrogen Hub model that can be scaled.
  6. SixRing
    Piloting a facility for the SixRing process to produce SixRing SAF, one of the world’s cleanest drop-in aviation fuels, with a key input being hydrogen, and to partner with SixRing to scale this technology to other airports and transportation hubs.
  7. Hydra – VEXSL – Hercules
    Creating the world’s first airside dual fuel hydrogen fleet using Hydra’s technology to convert YEG’s fleet and specialised equipment, using YEG as launch point and demonstration hub for Hydra’s technologies, including evolving a dual fuel hydrogen armoured car fleet, decarbonising heavy duty trucking, and converting Hercules class 7 and 8 fleet vehicles to dual fuel hydrogen.
    Piloting the launch of SBI’s technologies in modular hydrogen fuelling stations, commercial and retail fuelling options, sustainable aviation fuel, and biodiesel blend for servicing YEG’s fleet vehicles and equipment.

In May 2021, YEG and Air Canada entered a partnership to reduce carbon emissions and advance a green and sustainable aviation sector. This partnership aims to reduce the carbon impact of air travel with both organisations working together to test emerging green technologies at YEG’s Airport City Sustainability.

The YEG-Air Canada Sustainability Partnership focuses on initiatives that will promote a cleaner environment and include the following:

  • Electrification of aviation equipment.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell technologies.
  • Green power generation using Airport City Solar.
  • Development and use of sustainable aviation fuels, biofuels and hydrogen.
  • Replacement of single-use plastics with plant-fibre materials.
  • Drones for e-commerce and cargo delivery.
  • Initiatives in agriculture and forestry to offset carbon emissions.

Keehn comments: “Finding partners who share YEG’s core values is critical. Air Canada is passionate about reducing its environmental impact and our partnership shows how airlines and airports can work together to promote a sustainable future.”

In May 2022, as part of the ‘Sustainable Flight Challenge’ involving 17 airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flew its first overseas passenger flight from Amsterdam to YEG 39% powered by a new sustainable aviation fuel. This Boeing 787-10 aircraft carried 2% less fuel but had 76 more passengers than normal, resulting in about 26 % less CO2 emissions per passenger.

In 2022, then CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Pieter Elbers, stated: “KLM has operated to YEG for a couple of years, and has a very deep and close partnership with YEG. While talking to YEG we discovered we share the same values, ambitions, and drive to embrace sustainable aviation.”

YEG’s Airport City Sustainability Campus

The foundation for YEG’s innovation and sustainable economic development strategy is in establishing YEG as an Airport City Sustainability Campus, predicated on four pillars including Aviation & Technology, Distribution & Logistics, Sustainable Industrial Development and Destination Development.

A primary objective of the Airport City Sustainability Campus is to be a living laboratory for emerging smart technologies in aviation, transportation, autonomous air and ground mobility, artificial intelligence, green energy, agriculture, advanced manufacturing and emerging sectors.

Significant projects within YEG’s Airport City Sustainability Campus include:

  • Airport City Solar
    Partnership with Alpin Sun to develop 340,000 photovoltaic solar panels over 600 acres, generating 110 MW of renewable clean electricity annually, enough to power YEG, facilitate the future development of YEG’s International Cargo Hub and provide clean power to new developments on airport.
  • International Cargo Hub
    C$300+ million project involving a C$100 million grant from the Federal Government, as well as investment by YEG and the private sector, with development of 2,000 acres of land on YEG’s southwest lands, optimising the Port Alberta Foreign Trade Zone.
  • Expansion of YEG’s Cargo Village
    Expansion of YEG’s Cargo Village and Global Logistics Centre, with new temperature-controlled warehouses, and expanded Cargo Integrator area facilitating just-in-time logistics for e-commerce, distribution and agri-business, including a C$36 million expansion of YEG’s Apron 8 to respond to the 7% increase in cargo tonnage and 11% increase in freighter tonnage in 2022.
  • Agri-Business
    800,000 square foot indoor robotically operated greenhouse, in partnership with BEVO Farms Ltd, growing high value ornamental flowers with plans for vegetable propagation.
  • Alberta Aerospace Technology Centre (AATC)
    Established as a training hub at YEG, created in partnership with the Province of Alberta, Canadian North Airlines, Canadian Helicopters and YEG, housing Boeing 737 and helicopter training flight simulators, and has expanded into research and innovation, testing and advancing emerging technologies across key industry sectors.
  • Destination Development:
    – 340,000 square foot Premium Outlet Collection at YEG
    on 46 acres.
    – Hotels and retail services including the YEG Marriott Renaissance and Fairfield Hotels.
    – 100-Acre Century Mile Horse Racetrack and Casino.
    – Redtail Landing Golf Club.
    – 320-Acre Rad Torque Raceway motorsports park including NHRA dragstrip.
  • Public and Foundational Services and Partnerships:
    – STARS Air Ambulance airport urgent care clinic.
    – Leduc County Firehall and Emergency Services Facility on 1.5 acres, opening in January 2024.
    – Indigenous Box an Indigenous Women owned subscription box corporate gifting company.
    – Wild and Pine facility growing tree seedlings in a bio-prism greenhouse developing net zero carbon capture through reforestation and site restoration.

YEG is a case study of next generation airport success

With an annual economic output of over C$3.2 billion, YEG supports over 26,000 jobs, illustrating the success of YEG’s Airport City Sustainability Campus approach for diversifying the region’s economy, while leading technological innovation and supporting its sustainability pledge to become carbon neutral.

YEG’s many successful initiatives will be profiled at the forthcoming SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton from July 19-21. I hope you can attend and enjoy this exciting event!

About the author

Chris LeTourneur is president and CEO of MXD Development Strategists, co-chair of the ULI Airport Development Council and chair of the 2023 SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *