Norway is a maritime nation. In many cases, it is faster and less expensive to deliver cargo to its many coastal communities by sea than by land. Its citizens rely on numerous ferries for daily transportation. It has a large offshore oil and gas industry to support and it depends on ships to bring its goods to foreign markets.
The diesel engine is the workhorse of the maritime industry, which means all those ships in Norwegian waters are spewing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. This week, the government announced a series of measures it says will cut those emissions in half by 2030. That’s an ambitious goal but a manageable one, officials say. Others say the plan is too little, too late.
Here are some details from Norwegian media outlet TU. First a word of caution. Google Translate has a tough time with Norwegian to English translation duties. If some of the quotes you read below sound a bit lumpy, that’s the reason.
The plan sets up a series of targets for seven categories of vessels — scheduled passenger boats and ferries, cruise ships and larger passenger ferries, cargo ships, offshore vessels, special vessels and fisheries vessels, fishing vessels, and recreational boats. The entire 68 page plan can be viewed online but is only available in Norwegian at this time.
It focuses on four carbon reduction strategies: electrification/batteries, hybrid solutions, LNG, and biogas. Hydrogen is a component of the electrification strategy. Despite the fire and explosion at a hydrogen refueling station near Oslo this month, it is still considered an important part of the emissions reduction.
“I have been working with hydrogen for 17 years. We must find out what has happened and learn from it. But hydrogen is absolutely necessary to cope with emissions cuts in the transport sector, that is ships, trucks and trains,” says climate and environment minister Ola Elvestuen. He goes on to say the plan to cut shipping emissions by 50% in just 11 years is “difficult, but possible.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg says she is impressed with the adaptability and speed of technology development in the maritime industry in Norway. “In 2015, Ampere, the world’s first large battery operated ship, was put into operation. Last year came the world’s first full-electric ferry fleet went into operation on the E39 Anda-Lote route. Soon we will have 80 electric ferries in operation. It shows how we, with the cooperation of all parties, can make change happen quickly.”
Is The Plan Bold Enough?
Hege Økland, manager of NCE Maritime Clean Tech, tells TU the plan is fine for ferries and fast ferries, but there are many places where the plan relies too much on promises and not enough on solid action at a time when the clock is ticking. According to the latest IPCC climate report, the world needs to be at zero emissions by 2030 if humanity has any hope of preserving the habitability of the Earth. “It has taken time to create the plan, which we believe could have been more ambitious and concrete in several areas. But that is perhaps the problem and when several ministries with different interests have been involved,” she says.
One criticism of the plan is that it merely suggests improvements for offshore shipping rather then imposing requirements. But petroleum and energy minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg tells TU, “We see that shipping companies and oil companies have taken responsibility. It is a rapid technology development. We’ll see how this goes.” TU characterizes his response as “elusive.”
Hege Økland points out that pressure from the maritime industry itself has led to the adoption of low emissions vessels on several coastal routes. “We hadn’t got that without pressure from the industry itself. Now the ships get larger batteries and can sail longer on electric power. The Havila coastal route is currently looking at fuel cell and hydrogen on one of the ships,” she adds.
“Requirements for low and zero emission solutions for vessels in the petroleum and aquaculture industry must be put in place quickly. These are vessels that collectively account for large emissions, a total of 1.4 million tonnes of CO 2 from Norway’s annual emissions of 53 million tonnes of CO2 . Zero emission solutions here are a natural next step after the car ferries and fast ferries are electrified, so here the Government must act quickly,” says Marius Holm of environmental group Zero.
Sigurd Enge, a shipping industry official in the city of Bellona, is not impressed. He says, “The correct title of the action plan should be ‘The Government’s action plan to assess emissions cuts in the Norwegian domestic maritime and fishing fleet, where it is appropriate.” He believes its ambitions are great but the plan has too few concrete requirements and lacks satisfactory answers to the several questions:
- Where should the renewable, emission-free fuel come from?
- How should investments in land-based renewable energy infrastructure be carried out and for which energy carriers?
- How should the domestic shipping fleet get financial sustainability to implement the investments that are needed?
An Economic Opportunity For Norway
Prime minister Solberg believes Norway can become a major exporter of clean shipping technology. “The LNG development started here with the ferry Glutra in 2000. Now LNG in the on the verge of establishing a breakthrough internationally. We are in the forefront of battery development, but now that technology is being adopted rapidly by the rest of the world.”
Sveinung Oftedal, senior vice president at the Ministry of Climate and Environment, sums it up this way. “Norway needs the world, and the world needs Norway.” That phrase could apply equally well to the entire subject of global warming.
The world will need to cooperate in order to meet that challenge. Sadly, there is little indication the nations of the world — especially the largest and most powerful of them — have any realistic intention of doing so. Programs to cut emissions are laudable but few governments are really interested in doing the heavy lifting required to make them as robust as needed.
A tip of the CleanTechnica hat to Trygve Christiansen.
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