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Roadmap to Decarbonising European Shipping


Shipping is one of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors of the global economy, responsible for around 1 Gt of CO2eq every year. If shipping were a country, it would be the 6th biggest GHG emitter. EU related shipping is responsible for about 1/5 of global ship GHG emissions emitting on average 200 Mt/year. This report assesses potential technology pathways for decarbonising EU related shipping through a shift to zero carbon technologies and the impact such a move could have on renewable electricity demand in Europe. It also identifies key policy and sustainability issues that should be considered when analysing and supporting different technology options to decarbonise the maritime sector. The basis of the study is outbound journeys under the geographical scope of the EU ship MRV Regulation.

We have not tried to quantify the emissions reductions that specific regulatory measures to be introduced at the IMO or EU level might contribute towards decarbonisation by 2050 because there are too many uncertainties. We have taken a more limited first approach and investigated how zero carbon propulsion pathways that currently seem feasible to decarbonise shipping, would likely affect the future EU renewable energy supply needs.

It is now generally accepted that ship design efficiency requirements, while potentially having an important impact on future emissions growth, will fall well short of what is needed. Further operational efficiency measures, such as capping operational speed, will be important to immediately peak energy consumption and emissions, but will be insufficient to decarbonise the sector or reduce its growing energy needs. In this context, this study assumes that with all the likely immediate measures adopted, energy demand for EU related shipping will still grow by 50% by 2050 over 2010 levels. This is within the range of the 20 -1 20% global BAU maritime energy demand growth estimate.

The decarbonisation of shipping will require changes in on -board energy storage and use and the necessary accompanying bunkering infrastructure. This study identifies the technology options for zero emission propulsion that, based on current know-how, are likely to be adopted. It is not exhaustive nor prescriptive because the ultimate pathways will likely depend on both the requirements of the shipping industry in terms of cost, efficiency and safety, and on the future renewable electricity sources that the shipping sect or will need to compete for.

Literature is nascent on the different techno-economic options likely to be available to decarbonise shipping and individual ships 4 , but almost completely lacking on the possible impacts of maritime decarbonisation on the broader energy system(s). Understanding these impacts is nevertheless essential, because it will influence financial and economic decision making by the EU and member states, including those related to investment in future renewable energy supplies and new ship bunkering infrastructure. With this in mind, the report aims to provide a preliminary first answer to the following question: Under different zero emission technology pathways, how much additional renewable electricity would be needed to cater for the needs of EU related shipping in 2050?

Link to Document Download on Transport & Environment website

Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: European Union

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