Bellona COP23 event puts electric shipping in the spotlight: the technology is here, what we need now is regulation

Publish date: November 20, 2017

“A quiet revolution is taking place” highlighted Bellona at one of its COP23 side events on electrification of maritime transport in Bonn, Germany, last week. While most discussions centre around zero emission solutions for land transport, Bellona has taken on the next challenge: taking the electric revolution to the seas. ‘The technology is here, what we need is regulation’ was a key message echoed by the speakers.

During this COP23 event themed around Nordic climate solutions, Bellona and partners who have played an important role as game-changers in developing products and services compliant with a zero-emission future in coastal shipping inspired the audience by sharing their stories and best practices, while calling for a regulatory framework to ensure the whole industry follows suit.

“First, the electric revolution must start on land”, said Bellona’s senior advisor on shipping Jan Kjetil Paulsen. “Our vision for electric infrastructure is combining land-based and sea-based applications and seeing the harbour as an electric hub”.

The purpose of this concept is to be able utilise the required electric infrastructure for both shore power and battery charging of ships as well as charging of electric vehicles, buses and trucks.

First battery electric ferry in 2015

The electric revolution in the Norwegian maritime sector started 3 years ago when the first electric transfer ferry for the Norwegian Roads administration was launched. The electric ferry showed an almost immediate success, both as a zero-emissions solution, but also with respect to reduced operational costs.

In December 2015 the Norwegian parliament also passed a law requiring low- and zero-emission solutions for all national and local ferries, which were followed up with financial support.

Now only 3 years later, more than 60 electric ferries are in planning and construction stages to be put into operation in the next 34 years. The technology and solutions developed for the ferry market have also inspired several other sectors to develop similar solutions.

Best practices from pioneers

Rolf Sandvik, CEO of tourist company The Fjords, featured among the speakers of Bellona’s event and shared experience of operating the first hybrid battery electric ferry, Vision of the Fjords. Now, two years later, the technology is available for us to construct a 100% battery electric ferry, “Future of the Fjords”. This emission free cruise vessel is set for operation in UNESCO World Heritage Areas, the fjords of Western Norway.

Bernhard Stormyr, Head of Sustainability Management at Fertiliser company Yara, later shared the story of the development of the first, autonomous and fully electric container ship. The vessel will reduce NOx and CO2 emissions by reducing diesel-powered truck transport by around 40,000 journeys per year.

Egil Hystad from Wartsila highlighted the newest technological developments for zero emissions shipping, including Wartsila’s vision for carbon-free ocean transport. With growing global energy demand and increasingly stringent environmental legislation to combat climate change increasing pressure will be placed on the shipping sector’s role to keep up the pace.

Brent Perry, CEO at Plan B Energy Storage, who is one of the real pioneers in maritime battery solutions, reassured that fully zero emissions Trans-Atlantic shipping is just a few years away. He urged “We must stop thinking batteries, but look at more holistic energy solutions”. The company provides energy solutions to optimise power systems on marine, grid and heavy industrial applications and sees this as “the new oil”, especially in Norway, where financial support and political will enable the development.

Industry making first move, policy makers must follow
The conclusion was clear. All actors, whichever background they have are joining efforts to reduce emissions from the maritime transport sector. Shipping is after all the only transport sector not fully addressed in the Paris Agreement and has only witnessed increasing emissions over the last years. While industries are making the first move, investing in zero emissions technology, it is now up to the policy makers to make sure regulations are set in place, based on the polluter pays principle.

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