£19.8m for green energy ‘shore power’ in Portsmouth

Green revolution promised as Government’s Zero Emissions Vessels and Infrastructure (ZEVI) funds SEA CHANGE project a three of the busiest berths at Portsmouth International Port. 

‘Water and electricity don’t mix,’ goes the old saying. But an ambitious new project in Portsmouth aims to show that isn’t true. ZEVI funding has been awarded to a groundbreaking decarbonisation project to enable ferry and cruise ships to turn off their engines while in the port, and instead plug in to green energy ‘shore power’ to run their onboard systems.

white and blue boat on water near city buildings during daytime

Photo by Léa Debroise

One beneficiary of the new power supply will be Brittany Ferries’ two new LNG-electric hybrid ships, which will begin sailing from Portsmouth from spring 2025. These run on a combination of cleaner liquefied natural gas (LNG) and battery power. They will be able to recharge the latter the shore power site. 

Brittany Ferries is collaborating on SEA CHANGE with the University of Portsmouth, MSE International, B4T, IOTICS and Swanbarton. 

Decarbonising transport is a vital part of wider efforts to improve air quality and support the industry-wide shift to zero-emission shipping by 2050, as declared by the International Maritime Organisation.. Portsmouth City Council has also set a target to become carbon neutral by 2030. The shore power project will save an estimated 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from 2027 – equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of 2,500 UK households.  

Academics, marine specialists and small and medium-sized tech companies in the UK are working together to deliver the SEA CHANGE project. The University of Portsmouth provides academic expertise in data science, smart power grids, innovation and environmental impact analysis. B4T will produce new smart sensors, IOTICS will create a ‘digital twin ecosystem’ so that project partners can share data securely, while Swanbarton will supply the smart control software for energy storage. The hope is to provide a scalable solution that can then be used by ports in the UK and abroad.  

Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Aviation, Maritime and Security), says: ‘The maritime sector’s drive towards a cleaner future goes hand in hand with the Government’s plan to grow the economy and create new, well-paid jobs all over the UK. 

‘As a seafaring nation, it is in our national character to push nautical limits, and this funding will help to ensure the UK maintains its position at the leading edge of maritime innovation. I look forward to seeing all the industry has to offer over the course of London International Shipping Week.’ 

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Cabinet Member with responsibility for the port at Portsmouth City Council, adds: ‘Improving air quality is one of the most pressing issues facing Portsmouth today. Across the council we’re undertaking a huge range of projects to combat harmful emissions, which includes already approving a massive upgrade of the electricity supply to the port so this project can happen.   

‘It’ll also bring new high-skilled jobs and investment to the city, so I’m delighted we can now deliver this for the people of Portsmouth.’ 

Stephen Watkyns, Technical Director at Portsmouth International Port, says: ‘Once delivered, this revolutionary multi-user, multi-berth shore power facility will be a UK first. It means we’ll be able to provide shore power for ships on three of our berths, including providing power for the hybrid Brittany Ferries ships coming in 2025.’ 

Christophe Mathieu, CEO of Brittany Ferries, adds: ‘This is fantastic news as it fully unlocks the potential of our two new hybrid vessels. Shore-side power in Portsmouth means we can be good neighbours to those who live and work around the city as soon as these vessels arrive in 2025. We are delighted that our forward-thinking partners have pushed so hard to make this happen and are proud to contribute to wider emission-reduction goals.’ 

Dr David Hutchinson, Associate Professor in Environmental Innovation and Innovation and Impact Development Manager for the Faculty of Technology at the University of Portsmouth, says: ‘We are very excited and proud to be part of this project to develop innovative and sustainable power systems, to bring about significant reduction in carbon emissions and improvement in air quality in and around Portsmouth. 

‘SEA CHANGE underscores the critical importance of the university and city joining forces to combat climate change. This collaboration not only strengthens our resolve to address the pressing challenges of our era but also showcases the profound impact that unity and innovation can have on our shared commitment to a sustainable future. Together, we’re charting a course toward a cleaner, more resilient world, where the University of Portsmouth and our port-city stand as exemplars of climate-conscious leadership.’ 

Alex Barter, founder of B4T adds: ‘I am thrilled for the port, the Solent, and my team, as this significant project is a major step forward in advancing decarbonisation efforts and improving health outcomes. It also puts us on the map as pioneers in this field. We eagerly anticipate the development of our first-of-a-kind software and dashboard, which will ensure smooth operation, and the progress we will make with our Jellyfish sensors in generating energy data.  

‘Our ultimate goal is to export the valuable knowledge captured through the dashboard to other ports, making this decarbonising technology a standard practice across the industry. By doing so, we can contribute to making sustainable practices the norm.’ 

Anthony Price OBE, Managing Director of Swanbarton Limited, says: ‘The electrification of shipping is vital part of achieving net zero. Our team at Swanbarton has developed a suite of tools to plan and manage power, such as our battery optimiser which is already in use at Portsmouth International Port.    

‘As part of the SEA CHANGE project team, we are continuing our collaboration with the port to use our systems to optimise the use of electricity, particularly from renewable sources.’ 

In related news:

Doubling Welsh capacity to reprocess plastic 

Grants of up to £25,000 help Nottingham go greener 

Government eases restrictions on onshore windfarms 


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