The time has come for Government intervention and industry collaboration 

Stuart BarnesStuart Barnes, Regional Partnership Manager for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, will be chairing the next webinar in our Ports & Vessels 2021 series on Wednesday 26 May, dedicated to “Vessel support for offshore wind operations”. He will focus on the innovation roadmap to decarbonisation of offshore wind O&M vessels in the UK, here offering initial insight into the market…

It’s important to understand the barriers that UK ports and vessels must overcome for the rapid growth of offshore wind. The initial cost of investment and amount of capital needed for development is the first hurdle. Next are the physical constraints as the space available within ports will impact opportunities for energy storage, for example.

It has also become clear that the sector is lacking an effective risk-reward system. To make clean maritime work throughout the supply chain, we need offshore wind operators, vessel operators, vessel designers and builders, and ports to work together. As they are typically each other’s clients and therefore commercially-driven, it is currently difficult to focus on innovation.

A potential solution to help reduce or remove these barriers is greater Government intervention. This could help to create a more even playing field and motivate companies to work more. This might take the form of public funding, as is common throughout other European countries. Not only would this eradicate some of the competition that comes with private investors and shareholders, but it would also create opportunities for longer-term payment periods facilitating further investment.

Specific industry targets would also improve the business case for investment in renewable energy, placing greater emphasis on the topic for swifter approval from company boards. Government could introduce incentives to make alternative energy more appealing for a greater number of ports and associated companies, perhaps with subsidiaries for development and utilisation of low-carbon fuels. There are also some interesting ideas coming out of the freeports programme in terms of innovation budgets to facilitate rapid sector growth.

One thing is certain – we need to see demonstrations happening at scale very soon if the UK is to remain competitive with the rest of Europe. We are already seeing planning, construction and development of ground-breaking projects in Europe with ports mobilising for alternative power provision – the UK must act now to catch up.

ORE Catapult is currently involved with several projects that are helping to drive the industry forward. We are just concluding a project with the Department of Transport, looked to create a roadmap to net zero for offshore wind O&M in the North Sea. We engaged with a wide range of UK and European industry and stakeholders, focusing on technical, commercial and policy barriers to further decarbonisation of the sector. In identifying the main challenges, we were also able to make recommendations – which will be published at the end of May.

We have also been working with Bibby Marine Services to scope out zero emission SOVs alongside the R&D team at MarRI-UK. In addition, we are supporting innovation in UK offshore wind with the Government’s clean maritime demonstration competition. There are projects looking into electric vessels, hydrogen vessels and offshore charging systems, to name but a few.

Finally, we are excited to be working with partners to establish a national clean maritime demonstration hub based at the Port of Grimsby, which is the world’s largest offshore wind O&M port. It would be a really unique facility providing alternative fuels and shore-based charging facilities, bringing together innovators, regulators and industry to help rapidly develop and commercialise the clean maritime sector for offshore wind.

DEME Offshore has long seen potential in offshore wind to provide a springboard for a rapid maritime energy transition. If we can start to reduce barriers to market growth, with Government interventions facilitating standardisation and incentivising development, the opportunities could be realised on a huge scale.

 

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 DEME Offshore provides the most comprehensive and innovative solutions in the renewables industry. We offer flexible solutions for foundation, cable, turbine and substation installation and maintenance activities. By operating a high-tech fleet of installation, cable laying and multipurpose vessels we are able to help customers achieving the most demanding offshore energy projects.

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Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

ORE Catapult was established in 2013 by the UK Government and is part of a network of Catapults set up by Innovate UK in high growth industries. It is the UK’s leading innovation centre for offshore renewable energy and helps to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy, supporting the growth of the industry and creating UK benefit. ore.catapult.org.uk 

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Using Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs), XOCEAN provides turnkey data collection services to surveyors, companies and agencies. From mapping the seabed to environmental monitoring, our platform offers a safe, economic and carbon neutral solution to collecting ocean data.