The Cross-Party Group for Sustainable Transport is holding an inquiry into the decarbonisation of public transport. Read the report or watch the recording of the final evidence session on the decarbonisation of Scotland’s ferry fleet below.
We’re raising awareness and stimulating debate about the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to zero-carbon railways, bus fleets and ferries as part of the CPG on Sustainable Transport’s inquiry into the decarbonisation of Scotland’s public transport. Transform Scotland provides the secretariat for the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Sustainable Transport.
The group met for three evidence sessions in Spring prior to opening a call for views. The evidence submitted will be collated in a report to be launched in the autumn. The previous two sessions on bus and rail decarbonisation heard from industry experts. Read about the rail session here and the bus session here.
On Tuesday 20 June, the CPG held its final evidence session on ferry decarbonisation, hearing about innovation work in both Norway and Orkney from:
Asbjørn Torvanger PhD, Senior Research fellow at CIRCERO (Oslo’s Center for International Climate Research)
Neil Kermode, Managing Director of Orkney’s EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre)
Lessons from Norway
Asbjørn Torvanger outlined the growing success of electric car ferries in Norway: the first battery-electric ferry began operating in 2015 and, as of June 2023, 37% of the fleet is electric. He noted that passenger-only ferries are not converting as quickly as car ferries because routes are more demanding.
Asbjørn highlighted the Norwegian procurement method in which routes are put out to tender by central and local government, specifying climate-friendly fuels.
Beyond electric propulsion, Asbjørn noted that hydrogen/ammonia may be an alternative for short to medium shipping distances, where the capacity of batteries and recharging opportunities are insufficient. Despite some experimental vessels using hydrogen as a fuel source, challenges to innovation in this area include concerns over energy losses along the supply chain and the need for big infrastructure investment.
Orkney’s fossil-free innovation
Neil Kermode delivered a presentation which first outlined EMEC’s work in renewable energy in Orkney and how an excess of renewable energy prompted a turn to work on hydrogen as a means of storage. However, they found that it was more efficient to use hydrogen directly as a fuel source. EMEC has since conducted some hydrogen experiments on ferries, although this were not followed through to completion due to safety considerations and difficulty obtaining necessary authorisations.
From here, they turned to synthetic fuels — creating synthetic hydrocarbons from green hydrogen (hydrogen made from renewable sources). Neil illustrated that there is no fuel that uses less space and is lighter than diesel, stating EMEC’s position is that — in vessels that have space and weight limitations — synthetic diesel is the answer to cutting fossil fuel emissions.
He also made remarks on the need to convert the right fleet i.e. starting with smaller vessels which are easy to electrify, before tackling the bigger ships.
He summarised that Scotland must electrify whatever is possible now, and address non-fossil liquid fuels for the rest.
The presentations were followed by a Q&A segment which saw discussion on:
- Addressing electricity supply in remote areas
- Supply chains and local economic opportunities
- Potential routes for battery-electric vessels
- Producing synthetic fuels in Scotland
- Co-benefits of ferry decarbonisation
Listen to the discussion in full at the link below.
The group has launched a call for evidence and is seeking views on public transport decarbonisation – the benefits, the barriers and the opportunities.
Read more about the call for evidence and how to submit a response here.