Accelerating towards Net Zero with the Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network

Posted on: 11/11/2020

KTN was delighted to launch the Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network at UK Maritime Week 2020.

The Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network is part of KTN’s flagship programme and has been established to convene a community of representatives from government, armed services, industry, academia and finance to co-create a sector-led, compelling proposal for a government and industry partnership. What follows from the proposal will hopefully be a stimulus package for the sector to galvanise research, development and innovation, driving change and accelerating the journey to cleaner air and Net Zero emissions.

This event offered attendees and speakers alike the opportunity to come together and discuss the challenges and opportunities for decarbonising our critical maritime infrastructure. Convening this Innovation Network, dovetails with the rest of KTN’s work and commitments. Climate change and air quality are some of the most pressing sustainability issues of our time. If we want the country to reach Net Zero by 2050, there are a number of key stakeholders who have to collaborate to make this a reality. The Clean Maritime Plan coupled with the objectives of the International Maritime Organisation sets up a new level of ambition for the UK and this Innovation Network aims to support on the delivery of this ambition.

What motivated the KTN to establish this Innovation Network? – Mark Wray, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Buildings & Infrastucture

Ports and Harbours in the UK and Globally represent large and diverse locations for energy consuming buildings, equipment, vehicles and vessels. Developing a new non fossil fuel-based energy system to be rapidly and efficiently deployed, if we are to meet our decarbonising ambitions will be very challenging, requiring complex interactions from a wide range of stakeholders. We are very pleased to be playing our part in bringing together some of the most inventive and motivated organisations to explore this challenge, develop landscape maps of the opportunity, create technology roadmaps of viable approaches and create a plan for the next stages of investment to accelerate innovation and problem solving. We welcome others to rally around and join this Network so that as a collective we can enhance our knowledge and prepare for the next steps in decarbonising ports & harbours.

Our panel of experts included:

  • Liz English | Group Development Manager, ABP Limited
  • Commodore Jeremy Bailey | HMNB Portsmouth
  • Matt Albans | Head of Innovation, BAE Systems
  • Carolina Escudero | BA Distribution/Business Development Manager, Vattenfall Solutions Ltd
  • Richard Westgarth | MarRi-UK
  • Paolo Favino | Head of Domestic Emissions, Maritime, Department for Transport

During the discussion, this panel covered an extensive set of topics – from identifying the various challenges for their individual needs; expanding on the motivations for their involvement in identifying solutions; the importance of driving both behavioural and procedural changes; to unanimously agreeing on collaboration as the single-most effective way to accelerate this change. For more details, you can watch the recording here.

With over a 120 major commercial ports and harbours in the UK, all stakeholders and users have a critical part to play in maritime transport’s transition to Net Zero by 2050. In 2018, the transport sector as a whole was the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases across the whole economy. Solely domestic shipping was more polluting than buses and rail combined. It’s the diverse range of activities, users and stakeholders that make tackling this issue a collaborative endeavour.

While the progress and commitment to delivering on sustainability goals thus far is impressive, all panel members agreed that faster progress will come about by collaborating and linking the efforts of organisations, standards bodies and government. This is where the work of this Innovation Network comes in.


Key challenges identified:

  • Societal and environmental pressures
  • Long life of current assets
  • Balancing military demands against national and international standards
  • Understanding the technology landscape – no cookie-cutter approaches
  • Infrastructure that supports the move towards new solutions and their working
  • Transition towards identified solutions
  • International agreement on solutions
  • Aligning the commercial interests of government, port authorities, shipping vessel owners and their supporting organisations
  • Rapidly evolving technology and data sets

The Decarbonising Ports & Harbours Innovation Network has gathered a diverse advisory group across 3 key groups – challenge owners, solution providers and influencers.

Why am I and ABP getting involved in this? – Liz English, Group Development Manager, ABP Limited

Associated British Ports (ABP), the UK’s leading port operator with 21 well-connected ports across the UK, have made huge strides over the years in decarbonisation. For example, we currently have 19MW of solar and wind generating capacity on our sites, which we shall increase to 29 MW capacity by this time next year. The 2050 Net Zero policy, however, sets a new level of ambition for the UK and the wider sector, which requires a fresh and focussed collaborative effort to achieve, as no single player, even one of the larger port players like ABP, can achieve this alone.

Specifically, we need to bring new focus to how we avoid stranded assets as we move away from diesel. Whilst there are emerging hybrid and alternative powered options, diesel driven equipment remains in many instances the only viable option for heavy industrial applications. Significant investment has and is being made in diesel powered port plant and equipment to keep trade flowing, and we need to generate confidence this will not be wasted investment over the 10, 20 or 30 year lifetime of those assets by working out how we move away from diesel for otherwise fit for purpose equipment. The transition to lower and zero emission fuels will also bring with it a more complicated supply and distribution picture with no single fuel of the future, but many, which will be complex. Additionally, the greater demand for renewable generation and electrification will see the increased need for energy storage and removal of grid constraints.

ABP are however keen to be part of the solution to help our customers grow whilst reducing emissions.  We feel that addressing these sector wide challenges will be accelerated by working together across industry, including understanding the interfaces with the wider transport network such as road, rail and water-borne freight. Ports are and will continue to be a key link between these modes of freight transport, and therefore we are uniquely positioned to help facilitate and drive forward wider transport decarbonisation. 

I’m looking forward to helping the Innovation Network realise this potential and play my part in developing a clear roadmap for industry, government and innovators to all works towards collectively.

Going forward we are:

  • Building a community of operators, solutions providers and government to input into this as a whole
  • Establishing working groups on particular focus areas – mapping air quality, fuels and energy and a regulatory and legislature landscape
  • Understanding readily available and viable solutions and where the gap is, with a focus on the future
  • Understanding the solutions landscape that will benefit the diverse community and need all the ideas to come together
  • Building a framework to understand what success will look like

How can you help?

View the recording and join the community.

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