The electrification of construction equipment has been positioning itself as a viable technological alternative to solve the problem of climate change and improve air quality. However, the electric versions correspond primarily to small machines of less than 8 tons. Medium-sized machines between 8 and 20 tons, and larger machines widely used in the construction sector are not easily found in electric versions. This obstacle did not prevent the city of Oslo from proposing ambitious targets such as reducing 95% of its CO2 emissions by 2030 and having zero-emission building sites by 2025.
The Paris Agreement within the framework of the United Nations Climate Change Conference encourages countries to progressively implement more ambitious actions on climate change. Oslo's commitment has forced an intensive development of the private sector in the production of electric machinery, and at the same time, the Norwegian State has provided incentives to acquire these machines and competitive advantages in the tenders that involve electric machinery. In June 2023 in Sacramento, California, this effort by the City of Oslo was awarded the E-Visionary Awards 2023 for Europe for its advances in the electrification of the construction industry1, thus ratifying this city as a world leader in zero-emission construction sites.
In this context, the Climate and Clean Air in Latin American Cities (CALAC+) programme initiated a line of work dedicated to the promotion and knowledge management on electric machinery and other zero-emission technologies.
The Climate and Clean Air in Latin American Cities (CALAC+) programme has been helping the Latin American region for over 5 years to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by the machinery sector. The programme provides technical inputs, knowledge transfer, and support in the formulation of regulations and policies for the sector.
CALAC+ strives to strengthen capacities and the exchange of experiences that will enable government actors to develop strategies to reduce pollutant emissions and greenhouse gases in Latin America.
The programme is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and implemented by Swisscontact in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. Through CALAC+, Swisscontact continues to share knowledge and experience to support the region in moving towards mitigating climate change and improving air quality in Latin American cities.
Prior to the Oslo visit, the programme contributed with two relevant activities: In November 2022, the webinar "Advances and Challenges in the Transformation of Machinery to Zero Emission Technologies" (Facebook Video), which had speakers from nine countries, including Switzerland, the United States and Norway. The online event attracted around 100 participants from 10 countries.2 Showing the importance of this issue in the region, 86 percent of the attendees were from Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Paraguay, and the vast majority were government officials. The impact of this webinar was highlighted in the Latin American Construction magazine CLA, which has over 5,000 subscribers.
In the area of electric machinery, the project compiled experiences from 7 countries into a document entitled "Availability and Experience in the Use of Zero-Emission Machinery", which was published in a virtual event exclusively for government officials from Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico as partners of the CALAC+ programme.
At the request of representatives of the Chilean Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the Chilean Ministry of the Environment (MMA), the need arose to increase the knowledge base in the development and use of electrical machinery with a view to putting it into practice in Chile. Also, to align CALAC+ with the specific goals for the electrification of mining, forestry, construction, and agricultural machinery established in the National Electromobility Strategy 2021 published by the Chilean Ministry of Energy.
The visit to Oslo took place between June 19 and 23, 2023, with a series of interviews and field trips by 13 public and private entities, including representatives of the Chilean government and the CALAC+ programme. In terms of public policies, the transition strategy to zero-emission machinery was addressed: it incorporates economic incentives, inter-institutional relations of all entities in charge of carrying out works in the city, registration and control of machinery, as well as competitive incentives at the procurement level, tenders and other relevant conditions so that all sectors involved can support the state initiative.
With regard to technical aspects, interviews were conducted with building and road construction companies, as well as with the 3 largest companies in Norway that manufacture electric machinery: NASTA-HITACHI, VOLVO and Pon-Caterpillar. This showed that it is possible to have electric machinery at this time and that they are willing to expand the supply of machines to the market, and make them available in future construction projects.
It was of great relevance to see in situ the performance of electric machinery, advantages of its use, challenges, energy requirements, and the logistics in operation and loading.
Finally, discussions were held with Oslo's power entity to learn about the progress and challenges of power grid design and on-site load demands. This highlighted the need to establish a fluid communication channel with their counterpart in Chile, which previously did not play a leading role in the operation of diesel-powered machinery. The Norwegian authority in Oslo expressed the importance of establishing early communications at the time of planning the construction works to enable the connection points to the electric grid, as well as the need to have certified personnel in high voltage networks to serve as a communication bridge between the energy company and the builders. The visit also included a meeting with the research and development entity SINTEF, which has served as technical and scientific support for the authorities with diagnoses and analysis of scenarios aimed at formulating a safe electrification path.
Some examples include sharing experiences in preparing machinery emission inventories that contributed to the guidelines developed for other countries in the programme, such as Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Another example is the Swiss experience and support of CALAC+ through which Chile has installed particulate filters (DPF) in machinery owned by the MOP and has shared its experience with the above mentioned participants of the CALAC+ programme.