Alternative Energy

Shift to port electrification: helping to meet zero emissions target

21st October 2021
Kiera Sowery

Harbours and ports’ transition to full electrification will be a key contributor in reducing shipping’s output of greenhouse gases, said Vattenfall. Despite transporting around 80% of global trade, shipping accounts for a modest three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But in absolute terms this is still 940 million tonnes of CObeing emitted every year. Ports and harbours are often overlooked in this calculation, but are large energy users and emitters of CO2. However, according to energy company Vattenfall, the vast majority of ports and harbours energy requirements could be provided by carbon free electricity, making them important contributors in cutting shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050.

The challenge to decarbonise

The recent 'Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonisation' was supported by signatories from across the maritime value chain, including shipping, cargo, energy, finance, ports and infrastructure. Ports and harbours in particular offer great potential for decarbonising shipping, by turning them into carbon neutral smart hubs, the company claim.

“Ports such as Immingham, London and Milford Haven are massive industrial complexes, with a high reliance on diesel powered equipment,” said Andy Hyndman, business development manager, Vattenfall.

“Port operators are under increasing pressure to lower their carbon output, which can be achieved by transitioning to full electrification, but the shift will require a major upgrade of their electrical network and infrastructure.”

Shift to fossil free electricity

The task ports and harbours face is decoupling from today’s reliance on fossil fuels to renewably sourced energy, and electricity is the only scalable way to achieve that. This will range from electrifying cranes and materials handling equipment, to container trucks and even trains. Electrifying ports and harbours can also cut CO2 on ships, by providing shore-to-ship battery charging and ‘cold ironing’ services that power ships while they are in berth, allowing them to shut down their diesel engines.

“If managed properly, electrification will help ports operate more efficiently, reduce costs and meet their carbon reduction targets,” continued Hyndman.

“Electrification projects can seem daunting and expensive but Vattenfall has the ability to fund, build, own and operate the major infrastructure projects required for the electrification of ports on behalf of the owners. The most important thing is that ports start planning and initiating these projects now.

"We are expert at designing and operating smart grids and stand-alone micro-grids, with integrated renewable energy systems and batteries for back up power, EV charging and can also secure new and upgraded grid connections through our sister business Vattenfall IDNO.”

Energy security

In this electrified future, power cuts and temporary ‘brown outs’ are real possibilities without significant upgrades to electrical infrastructure, with large commercial ramifications for port operators. Avoiding these requires careful management of a site’s electrical infrastructure according to a network asset management plan. Such plans should timetable the servicing and possible replacement of any old transformers, switchgear and cables and can also map out the integration of renewable energy, solar, heat, battery storage and electric vehicle charging infrastructure for operational, staff and public transport vehicles.

Rather than manage the transition to electrification themselves, ports and harbours can outsource this responsibility to third party suppliers. Companies such as Vattenfall can go one step further.

Ports’ high voltage assets can be transferred to Vattenfall in their entirety for ten years in return for an asset transfer value, paid by Vattenfall. Under the model, known as Power-as-a-Service, Vattenfall becomes the legal owner of the electrical infrastructure and holds the asset failure risk, covers asset replacement costs and all operations and maintenance activities for a fixed fee. At the end of the initial ten years the assets can be returned to the port or the agreement extended.

“Managing the transition to electrification is a big challenge for ports and harbours,” said Hyndman.

“Many will not have the expertise or resources to fund the required capital expenditure. But there are options available that incur no upfront Capex, with the risk and expense being borne by a third-party electrical expert over a prolonged period. We’re ready and waiting to help UK ports become fossil free within one generation.”

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