A Chinese proverb: “When the winds of change blow some people build walls and others build windmills.”
On Sunday May 11 2014 over 75% of Germany’s electricity supply came from wind. In Q1 27% of that country’s total energy demand was provided by renewable power. Germany aims to provide nearly all of the nation’s power supply from renewable energy by 2050.
Energiewende - Germany’s energy transition programme - is founded on the knowledge that a fossil-fuel based system is unsustainable. This policy is underpinned by the consumer paying for ambitious government policy. In 2014 there are no technical or commercial obstacles to providing a highly sophisticated nation with renewable energy. The consequence of a significant proportion of electricity generated by renewables is a fall in wholesale energy prices that will eventually lead to a reduction in prices to the consumer. It’s a long game but the rewards are beginning to show.
In shipping, it seems, we are less ambitious. By believing that the efficiency of shipping alone can address the challenges the industry will face in a fossil fuel constrained future is naive. It is, in the proverb’s terms, a wall building exercise. We may not like the consequences of change but there is huge opportunity in embracing possibilities.
Just as a 21st century wind turbine successfully evolved from a last century windmill so shipping can evolve renewable solutions for the global fleet. Maersk has adopted giganticism as a solution but that’s not necessarily an option for smaller organisations. Bulk ships are responsible for moving the more fundamental building blocks of a modern global economic system - feedstocks, fuels, raw materials. Short sea solutions may be much needed to provide low carbon on-shipping support for the gigantic box carriers. Smart 21st century, renewable energy solutions for ships of all shapes and sizes are out there, the challenge is for the sector to embrace the opportunity for ambitious change.