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Unveiling shore power’s role in UK’s first green shipping corridor

The UK’s first green shipping corridor is moving forward – and shore power will play a key role.

The green corridor will be established between the Ports of Dover, Calais and Dunkirk as part of the UK’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. Schneider Electric is a technical partner in an eight-month consultancy project to design and deliver the project.

Schneider Electric segment marketing manager Peter Selway explains there are great opportunities for shore power to boost decarbonisation – but highlights, “We can’t emphasise enough how much of a transition it will be for ports.”

Highlighting the importance of shore power in reaching net zero, he says, “Shipping is one of the most difficult areas to decarbonise, due to the distances ships cover and because their lifecycle is 30-35 years on average. The best strategy is what can we achieve now and for me, the emissions of vessels at berth is one of the biggest opportunities. The ships are not moving anywhere and so decarbonisation is easier to address. We can adopt something now that makes sense.

Furthermore, shore power goes hand in hand with hybrid vessels and on shortsea routes, electric vessels work.”

The greatest challenge is the amount of electrical energy Port of Dover will need to provide berth shore power. Mr Selway underlines this is the biggest challenge of the “huge challenges to surmount”.

“This is the real crux - the business model for ports will change vastly. They are going from handling goods and people to becoming energy providers. It is not typically a skill set these ports have.”

He expands, “At the moment, Port of Dover deploys 1 mega volt ampere of electric power, the equivalent of 1 MW of power. The first phase of the Green Corridor project has been to understand future energy requirements and based on this, we have calculated the port will need 160 MW. This is a vast amount of power; you are talking of hundreds of thousands of houses worth of power. It is truly a mind-boggling number.”

UK ports are already feeling the pressure, as last year it was decreed their ability to use red diesel for handling equipment had to end and instead, they must use white diesel, which has a far higher tax rate. Mr Selway cites how one of the UK’s largest ports has calculated the increase in duty caused by moving to white diesel was expected to cost them almost £10.0M (US$12.6M) per year.

“There is a huge drive to electrify equipment, install renewables, take control of costs and power purchase agreements like buying direct from windfarms. We can’t emphasise enough how much of a power transition it will be for ports,” he says.

In terms of shore power, it is not just the amount of electrical power needed that is a major consideration, but also huge spikes in power demand. “If you, as a port, install 160 MW of power and there is a huge spike at a certain time, then if you build the infrastructure just to meet that situation, you will pay a huge amount of money.”

The solution, Mr Selway says, is to install micro grids. “This means ports can start generating and storing energy locally and use the micro grids to understand when the demand is likely to happen. This means instead of needing 160 MVA which is going to be very difficult to acquire, 80 or 90 MW would suffice, which is much more reasonable. It also means ports can take control over energy prices as if they are generating their own electricity. Ports need to install infrastructure, but in a sensible way.”

Schneider Electric will build a digital twin – a scalable digital model of the Port of Dover’s electrical infrastructure – that will enable the port’s new shore power systems to be designed and tested virtually before being built and integrated into the port’s existing facilities, ensuring minimal service disruption.

Mr Selway emphasises the importance of smart infrastructure. “We already have a demand here as P&O Ferries’ new hybrid vessels are running on this route and they want to recharge batteries and take shore power.”

P&O Ferries had its first battery-hybrid ferry P&O Pioneer delivered this year, which will be followed by sister ship P&O Liberte by the of the year. 

Schneider Electric has been involved in approximately 150 berths globally that deploy shore power. “Every single one has had government funding to make it happen,” notes Mr Selway. “There are great shore power initiatives all over the world, and lots of other countries put huge amounts of money in to help ports install the infrastructure, and that really helps.”

Indeed, a report by British Ports Association into the barriers to shore power in the UK – Reducing emissions from shipping in ports; examining the barriers to shore power – explained the primary barrier is capital costs. “No shore power project anywhere in the world has been undertaken without public support. A green maritime fund to support shore power in the UK is clearly needed to help meet prohibitive costs, particularly around energy networks and generation.”

The funding gained for the Green Corridor between Dover and France only covers the UK, but it is essential to ensure the infrastructure is established in Dunkirk and Calais also.

Mr Selway comments, “These ports are heavily engaged, and we have upcoming meetings with them.”

Looking ahead, Mr Selway says, a huge amount of learning and communication is needed. Communicating the importance of shore power to those outside of the maritime industry is crucial.

He concludes, “Electric cars have had a huge amount of press, but the challenges there are a drop in the ocean compared with electrifying ships. Implementing shore power equates to taking millions of cars off the road. We are trying to beat the drum to make people aware this happening, but we need the whole world to realise what is happening and what this looks like.”


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