Commercial electrification is the only route to diminishing Maritime’s emissions crisis

by | Apr 25, 2022

Shift Clean Energy’s Brent Perry discusses electrification and how prioritising commercial solutions will enable true action against the climate crisis.

Point blank: the shipping industry alone is responsible for some 2.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and we’re not doing anywhere near enough to eliminate that.

Yet maritime logistics is responsible for around 90% of the world’s trade. It’s not only central to commodity and supply chains but to economic growth, global connection, trade routes, employment figures, political stature – the list goes on.

The natural solution? Combine commercialism and electrification, rather than treating them as two exclusive objectives or entities. A solution which tackles GHG emissions in a meaningful, rapid way must not sacrifice the role of the sector. A solution which enables Maritime’s necessity must prioritise environmentalism both short- and long-term.

The solution in question can be one and the same.

Combining priorities – the only way forward?

When we discuss electrification, cost of outlay and cost efficiency very quickly arises. Adaptation is no small feat; we only need to talk to owners of electric cars to know that. Cost-heavy, yes, but it’s a decision which also comes at a high-risk, therefore less reliability.

Considering the impact of large-scale vessels is imperative. But as the transportation of goods by trucks accounts for 10% of global GHG emissions, what is the most accessible option on the market?

Goods are increasingly moving to inland waterways as a means to shift some of these emissions-heavy trading options – a long-standing aim of the European Union – and yet this in turn has meant larger vessel sizes, and an increase in the total gross tonnage of fleets on inland waterways. Ultimately, this requires more fuel to move.

While this decreases congestion and improves efficiency, the problem of dangerous emissions still stands. Electrification in global trading isn’t too dissimilar from electrification in everyday transport.

An industry that has long relied on emissions-heavy fuels is now being asked to shift its perspective to a more sustainable method of power. How can we create an electric solution which will not only be an effective solution to reduce GHG emissions and improve public health, but one which is commercially viable and, in turn, won’t cost the end-consumer?

More reliability, less risk. Electric power solutions are only as strong as they say on the tin. Typically, large fixed-battery solutions need to be charged while the vessel is at berth. Comparatively, swappable batteries can be charged on vessel or at a charging station, can operate across a variety of trading and fuel routes. Meaning increasing accessibility, efficiency and commerciality.

Making electrification a business decision

Encouraging greater use of alternative fuel methods, and making things like electrification more widely accessible is one thing; eliminating the need for retrofits, newbuilds, expansion, investments can simplify transition processes and make them more commercially and operationally viable.

Perhaps more important to that is the ability to consider how adopting something like electrification or hybridisation will support a business’ bottom line. PwrSwäp operates on a pay-as-you-go model for this very reason.

There’s a baseline subscription service fee, and after that, energy is paid for on a per kilowatt hour basis. No deposit for the e-Pod battery, no capex, no contribution percentile to the charging station.

The savings alone of switching from diesel to electricity pays for moving to zero emissions on day one and the entire system pays for itself within 5 or 6 years.

Final word – Is electrification a perfect solution?

‘Perfect’ is dependent on an individual business’ sector, priorities, needs, objectives.
However, for too long the ability for businesses to address the climate emergency has relied on their ability to tackle emissions whilst simply surviving – let alone making a commercial profit. Combining the two central priorities will only further business-first and innovation-led solutions.
Northern Europe has around 6,000 inland waterway vessels alone. Around 300 kilos of Co2 is emitted by each vessel every hour alone – do the math and it might make you wince. But by creating an holistic package designed not only to reduce emissions but increase efficiency and therefore profits, it’ll be much simpler to secure buy-in – and achieve meaningful results.

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