Maritime has long relied on diesel power, but the Port of Tyne is becoming a clean energy enabler. Dr Jo North, Technology and Transformation Director, tells us about their award-winning achievements and future aims.

Like many other industries, maritime has traditionally been very reliant on diesel power. Government subsidies for red diesel have made this even more problematic and the Port of Tyne, just like every other port in the UK, has been a long-standing beneficiary of this policy. Not any more though and we are very proud of where our green roadmap has and is taking us as an organisation. Our vision is to collaborate with partners across other industry sectors, acquiring the knowledge required to become both a clean energy operator as a port and, for our customers’ benefit, a clean energy enabler. 

This is not greenwash. Renewable energy is our future. In late 2019, the Port of Tyne launched an ambitious net zero roadmap to become carbon neutral by 2030 and an all-electric port by 2040. In addition, we launched the industry’s first 2050 Maritime Innovation Hub, a forum to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing among maritime operators across many different industry sectors.

What does all this mean in practice and how far have we got? Enough to win two Maritime UK Awards in 2020. We have invested over £2million into clean energy projects, starting with detailed modelling and analysis of our electricity network. This is fundamental to helping port leadership forecast the impact of electrification on loads and ensuring that operations remain resilient.

Armed with this knowledge, we are working through an asset electrification programme, converting legacy materials handling assets from diesel to low carbon electricity. Once finished, this will include a first for a UK port – to successfully convert an existing diesel-powered mobile harbour crane to be fully electric. Existing diesel powered Drax Hoppers used for bulk materials handling are also being electrified. These two initiatives alone have reduced the port’s diesel consumption by 260K litres and eliminated 700 tonnes of CO2 emissions. It is enough to power over 80 UK homes for a year.

The Port of Tyne has invested in a fleet of electric vehicles, LED lighting in every building and asset, plus smart energy monitoring meters. A team is evaluating the potential for installing solar panels on warehouse buildings. The switch to LED lighting alone has saved over 2.5M kWh of energy. As further evidence of our commitment the Port of Tyne has also launched Tyne Clean Energy Park, providing a convenient, versatile strategic base for the north east’s rapidly growing renewable energy sector.

Awards aside, the results to date speak for themselves. We have secured a contract that will mean thousands of new and better jobs in the region. It is a deal that will represent many millions generated for the local economy over many decades. The Port of Tyne is to become the operations and maintenance base for the world’s largest offshore wind farm, operated by Equinor and SSE Renewables at nearby Dogger Bank. We have also continued to host important industry events to continue exploring the potential of renewable energy for the port and its customers throughout the Covid pandemic.

Over the past 12 months, our 2050 Maritime Innovation Hub has hosted numerous events, welcoming hundreds of businesses and academics from diverse industries – including space, defence, renewable energy, the rail industry, the RAF, data science and AI – to share ideas, concepts and strategies.

This is just the beginning of green business in maritime. Maritime innovation has always been important and never more so than now, as the community collectively addresses the challenges and opportunities for UK maritime in a post Covid world. At the port, our clean energy investments will continue to reduce carbon consumption and lower our costs. Going forwards we will be allocating up to 30% of our annual capital expenditure for more net zero improvements and we will continue to prioritise green innovation and sustainability.

Author: Dr Jo North is the Technology and Transformation Director at the Port of Tyne
www.portoftyne.co.uk

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