A Conducive Environment

The necessary market drivers for rapid technology change in shipping are coming into alignment. 

Shipping’s customers are creating a strong commercial demand pull for low carbon ships. Most countries and large corporations have publicly committed to emission reductions and urgently need decarbonised supply chain to achieve that. Simultaneously a significant shift in climate policy is looking increasingly likely at the upcoming IMO marine environment protection committee meeting later this month. There’s a wide coalition looking to implement a policy push through ‘fairshare’ carbon targets.  

To rapidly accelerate the necessary design and development there is much we can learn from the rapid evolution of the onshore wind industry.  System change in energy came about because three dynamically interconnected disciplines were stimulated simultaneously – technology design, finance and reliable performance analysis. 

The first wind turbines sited on windy hills produced just 50KW power, now, within just a few short years, offshore turbines with 8MW generation capacity are being installed far out to sea.

It starts with great design

Designing for 100% reuse reduces carbon by 29% according to research led by Dr Paul Gilbert from the UK’s University of Manchester and Dr Peter Hodgson from Tata’s sustainability team. Build the vessel for extreme longevity, looking to condition based monitoring, new materials and operation approaches to extend use of asset over time further reduces embedded carbon.

Power a ship with 100% renewable energy where fuel cost is predictable over the lifetime of the ship and we can already see that today an ultra-low carbon, future-proof, resilient asset is entirely possible by combining existing and proven technologies in new ways. 

New financial products and innovative business models for the maritime sector, informed by the onshore renewable revolution, are now emerging. They reflect the fundamentally different economics enabled by renewable energy – the asset value is decoupled from volatile, commodity fossil fuel prices. Harnessing, through technology, freely and infinitely available power changes risk profiles and attracts investment from the burgeoning renewable energy sector familiar with these new economic dynamics. 

The final piece in the jigsaw is the replication, for the maritime sector, of the analysis tool that underpinned the development of onshore wind. Big Data analysis tools test new vessel designs against 30 years hindcast data in wind, wave and currents and enable all contracting parties – asset developer, financier, end-user – to predict the value of renewable energy to any project, to effectively monetise that value, and thereby give all contracting parties confidence. Making the unpredictable predictable enables rapid design optimisation.

Once the collective creativity across the shipping industry is brought to bear on the climate change challenge it will be possible to realise, and profit from, the vast potential in maritime renewable energy and we can anticipate the exponential growth mirroring that of onshore renewable energy.