Enough of talking. If we are to set the course straight at a time that might be one of the most crucial in humankind’s history, we need to act now. Here are a few things that can be done in the shipping and energy industries to make a difference.
While the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, in Paris 2015 was all talk and big plans, the follow up in Katowice, Poland, started yesterday, will be all about concrete actions. Because that is what is sorely needed in a world that has experienced its 10 warmest years on record since 1998.
Wärtsilä, being active in two industries, shipping and energy – both of which touch upon everyday life across the globe – is in a pivotal position to take actions that make a real difference. Sustainability has been high on the company’s agenda for several decades.
“The technology for a more sustainable shipping industry and energy market has been in place for years. What has been lacking though are affordable solutions and a true will to change,” says Marko Vainikka, Director, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Wärtsilä.
Luckily, we are seeing more of affordable solutions now, and nations are increasingly setting aside their own agendas to grapple with one of humankind’s biggest challenges so far: global warming.
“The IMO (International Maritime Organization) recently included climate change among its strategic directions and the European Commission announced a decision to adopt a strategic long-term vision for climate neutral economy by 2050 called ‘A clean planet for all’,” says Vainikka.
But how does all this translate into something concrete? Let’s start with the marine industry.
Decarbonisation is driving the efforts at Wärtsilä. The marine industry has traditionally been powered by less environment-friendly options like heavy fuel oil. A switch away from these will make a huge difference. This is where Wärtsilä steps in. There are several options in the company’s offering that could turn the tide. Wärtsilä boasts of many world-firsts when it comes to powering vessels with LNG, including the first LNG-powered icebreaker Polaris and cruise vessel Viking Grace.
Investments in fuel efficiency plays an important role too.
“Shipping is by far the most efficient way to transport large volumes of goods from A to B. Over 90% of all goods are transported by sea. Since carbon emissions stand in direct proportion to fuel consumption, we can make a massive impact by looking at fuel efficiency from an end to end perspective,” says Andrea Morgante, Director, Digital at Marine Solutions.
Digitalisation can be of great help in making that come true. “Optimisation of route and port operations will allow for just in time off- and on-loading, which can save up to 10 percent on consumption,” says Morgante.
This will have a bearing on customers’ wallets too. Teaming sustainability with profitability will be the main driver for change.
Retrofitting older vessels is a case in point. “Switching to new vessels or retrofitting old ones are huge investments. At the end of the day, all businesses need to be profitable in the long run. If switching to sustainable solutions can leave more on the last line, the faster the adoption,” says Morgante.
Once again, digitalisation can steer the way here. “There is a lot of focus on making sustainable new vessels, but the fact remains that there are a lot of older vessels around. There is a lot to be won by retrofitting these vessels with smart solutions,” notes Morgante.
Hybrid power solutions will play a key role, going forward. Wärtsilä has recently inaugurated its new Hybrid Centre in Trieste, Italy, a first-of-its-kind in the world. Here, the company can experiment with hybrid solutions and enable further development of its HY Hybrid Power Modules. It will be capable of simulating operational data from the field, which will thus enable optimisation of the hybrid system to reach unprecedented levels.
“Instead of preparing for scenarios that might happen 30 years from now, we want to make sure we take tangible and meaningful steps in the right direction all the time,” says Morgante.
Affordable energy is the ticket to a better life and high on the agenda for most countries in the world. Coal is available and comes with a less hefty price tag. This is the main reason for the sluggish adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The good news is that the prices have come down a lot.
“In Finland alone, the price of wind energy has dipped by more than 50% in the two last years. This is the launching pad to wider adoption of renewable energy. Sustainability needs to meet affordability for change to happen”, says Matti Rautkivi at Energy Solutions, Wärtsilä.
But the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind gods are fickle too. To make up for the days without sun and wind you need backup power. Wärtsilä’s solutions come with quick ramp-up times, which mean that you don’t need your power plants to run on energy-consuming baseload power all the time. The power plants Wärtsilä provides are increasingly powered by gas instead of coal. Different battery solutions for storing energy from solar and wind are also on the rise.
These solutions combined can help societies adhere with IPCC’s calculations, stating that 80% of the world’s energy needs to come from renewable resources by 2050.
Then there are also the actions that make use of the CO₂ emissions. Wärtsilä recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), the largest electricity utility company in the state of Nebraska, and the Lappeenranta University in Finland with the aim to accelerate the move towards a 100 percent renewable carbon-free future using alternative fuels such as methanol, dimethyl ether and ammonia, synthesised from hydrogen, CO₂ and nitrogen.
“Basically, we would get diesel from mixing CO₂ with water,” says Rautkivi.
So the technology is in place for the world to change the trajectory of global warming. Now we need the will, and quite urgently so.
According to IPCC, the coming years are probably the most crucial in the whole history of humankind. In this time frame, every month counts.
“We cannot sit on our actions any longer. It falls on companies to come up with innovative solutions and for societies to make sure the incentives, regulation and infrastructure are in place. And then each one of us need to do our share on an individual level too,” says Vainikka.
So enough of the talking. Let’s act.