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Energy transition: ports lead the way

There has been a raft of stories this year that demonstrate how our ports are playing a vital role in energy transition and the UK’s journey to net zero. From renewable energy to hydrogen production to hubs for new industry, ports are key players in many decarbonisation stories.

Aside from cutting carbon from their own operations, ports are establishing themselves as producing facilities for new energy sources, such as hydrogen, as hubs for renewable energy infrastructure such as offshore wind and as locations for lower carbon manufacturing and processing.

On 20 March, the government announced that Port Talbot in Wales and Port Cromarty Firth in Scotland had progressed onto the next stage for securing funding under the Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme (FLOWMIS). Up to £160m will be awarded for Associated British Ports to invest in its port infrastructure to help deliver floating offshore wind.

A couple of days earlier, Peel Ports announced that it would install 63,000 solar panels across the Port of Liverpool’s rooftops, in partnership with E.ON. Expected to be the largest array of its kind in the UK, the installation should supply one quarter of the port’s electricity needs. Peel Ports and E.ON also revealed they would be upgrading the Port of Liverpool’s wind turbines. Four larger turbines will replace the five current ones, subject to planning permissions and consultation.

Wind turbine components are driving activity at Peel Ports Clydeport. At the beginning of March, the operator said that its King George V Dock in Glasgow was set for a bumper year in 2024, due to process over 1,000 wind turbine components which will be heading for North Kyle Windfarm in East Ayrshire.

Peel Ports Clydeport is also looking for contractors to redevelop the Hunterston Port and Resource Campus (PARC) in North Ayrshire, a former coal port. With 320 acres of space, and rail connections, Hunterston PARC hopes to create a marine campus, powered by green energy.

The Port of Felixstowe was one of the successful applications for the Government’s first round of Net Zero Hydrogen Fund in February. ScottishPower and Hutchison Ports aim to produce 100MW of green hydrogen by 2026, using renewable energy to power electrolysers to produce hydrogen from water.

Meanwhile Associated British Ports is looking for a contractor to design and build a bulk liquid green energy terminal at the Port of Immingham. The plan is to import green ammonia, made in Saudi Arabia, and convert it to green hydrogen.

These are all good news stories for ports and for the UK. However, ports will need to attract significant amounts of private investment if they are to optimise their contribution to energy transition and decarbonisation.

It is vital that the infrastructure serving our ports is in good condition. As well as their regular role in carrying goods and products to and from the ports, the local roads which serve them will also be bringing construction traffic and materials to enable the upgrades and developments needed. Investing in our roads will help stimulate investment elsewhere.



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