The shipping sector needs to embrace the global challenge of rapid emission reduction to remain as a low emitter and to enjoy the significant commercial benefits that are available from developing renewable energy. There are a plethora of new technology and innovation solutions. Wind, solar and wave power all have maritime applications suitable for all vessels.
These energy sources are freely and abundantly available at sea.
Deploying renewables fundamentally alters business models. Fuel is free. Technology to harness free energy develops fast and reduces rapidly in cost. For example on land the cost of solar has fallen 75% in the last five years, onshore wind is the lowest cost means of energy production.
Long term power purchase agreements give energy users cost certainty and autonomy from volatile commodity based energy prices. This accelerates the market and makes technology owners, rather than commodity owners, the 21st century energy tycoons.
Applying the lessons from onshore renewables to the maritime sector provides much needed innovation for the whole sector improving commercial resilience whilst creating lucrative new business opportunities for bold early adopters.
Stanford University recently published a report making the case strongly that it is technically and economically feasible for the world get 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources. IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, also launched an analysis laying out the pathway way to rapid decarbonisation through renewable energy. The key recommendation is to strengthen policy commitment to renewable energy.
Committing to ambitious absolute CO2 reduction is an enormous undertaking. A clear target within a firm policy framework would give the sector the vision, leadership and clarity to capitalise on huge global opportunities.
During WW2 the USA built over 2000 ships in 4 years to serve the urgent merchant shipping needs of the war effort. Liberty Ships are evidence that if the shipping sector wants and needs to shift it does so with spectacular results. CO2 emission reduction is a global challenge of similar magnitude.
SHIPPING IS THE SERVANT OF GLOBAL TRADE?
The rest of world demands low carbon supply chains. 8698 countries, companies, states, regions and cities around the world have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and or procuring 100% of their power from renewable sources as part of the Lima-Paris Agreement.
In 2012 some ship operators including Cargill committed to use only the most energy efficient ships. In effect this means committing to newer ships. The deep emissions cuts needed by the cargo owners that enable them to meet their public commitments are simply not available as yet in the shipping sector.
Efficiency is not enough to address shipping’s global challenge, global trade needs maritime renewables to reach its targets.