Let’s first prepare the frame for a realistic vision for islands. Islands can serve as a testbed for a circular society, not only economy, however testing everything might take too long, so that probably it’s a good idea to avoid starting at zero, but to use solutions found already on islands, but also on the main land, and adapt them to islands. Principal objective is to decarbonise!
Nowadays it is easy to reach agreement on the objective of achieving sustainable maritime transport for islands, in-between islands and between islands and their main supply ports on the mainland. For tourism one has to add travel by plane, but this is another story, challenging but with large potential! Transport on islands is probably the easiest to decarbonise, as here we have good solutions to copy from the mainland (and islands). So, in fact we can divide the overall transport problem in 3 categories: land, maritime and air transport.
The question for each category is therefore mainly how, how fast and how expensive? In order to be able to answer the how-question for your island, you should consider best practise achieved on other islands, but also and this is important, solutions found on the mainland, which could be adapted to islands. This would without doubt save time and money, but above all, mistakes!
The general trend in decarbonisation is the electrification of transport worldwide, mainland and islands, using batteries and hydrogen as storage for vehicles. Ships and airplanes are a special cases, because here we are still rather far away from an economical solution, except for small ships and/or short distances. An example for a large, seagoing ship of 143m is the fully electric ferry “Bastø Electric” in Norway between Moss and Horten, which is able to carry 203 cars plus 600 passengers and can cover about 10km with 20-24 sailings per day (start 11/2021).
This project includes shore-side fast charging infrastructure to enable short turnaround times, which is an additional challenge, but a key requirement for ferry operations. Best bet for all other ship applications is currently LNG, as it is 200 times cleaner than diesel oil, considering all polluting emissions (CO2, NOx, SOx, etc), however the CO2-footprint is only about 20% better. An example is provided by the “Abel Matutes” RoPax ferry (200m class) between the Baleares Islands (ES) and Valencia (ES) (start 2019). In addition, through retro-fitting of the LNG engine enormous pollution-avoidance and cost-saving were made, when compared to building a new ship.
This was only the first of the 5 ships of the innovative project “LNGHIVE2”, which was co-financed by the EC’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which in turn follows the Guidelines of the Trans-European Networks (TEN), which is a base legislation of the European Union (EU) since 1993. In fact, the sulphur directive in the EU has set the scene for the seas to fight pollution, with similar law being passed in other world regions. Finally, the electrification trend means that we have to include energy supply in our vision for sure, and it has to better be green!
Without going into technical details, we have good solutions across the globe, and we should also look at transport avoidance and energy saving by improved logistics and production of energy in ports (wind, solar, tidal), which otherwise be wasted or lost. For example it is a very bad concept to be forced to switch off wind mills when the wind is blowing, just because the grid cannot take any more! Here it is far better to transform electric energy into, for instance hydrogen, despite the conversion loses.
Improved logistics may be studied at the ports of San Francisco (US) and Hamburg (DE), energy savings and generation may be studied at the Orkney Islands (UK) and Madeira Island (PT) as well as at the Ports of Valencia (ES) and Civitavecchia (Port of Rome) (IT), alternative H2 economy may be studied at the region of Groningen (NL), – the list is long. However, we should only test on islands what has not been tested elsewhere, and here the GTI Observatory leads the way and provides practical support!
Let’s now, based on our preparation above, try to create our realistic vision covering the coming 10 years.
Category 1 – land transport on islands: fully electrified vehicles based on battery and hydrogen-electric drives for road transport and where possible rail in all sizes (e.g. also road-based tram). In addition, systematic development of bicycle infrastructure to enable safe and easy bicycle usage.
Category 2 – maritime transport: fully electrified port logistics for passengers and freight, optimisation of handling, containerised as much as possible. In addition systematic cold ironing offered, in some locations made obligatory (onshore electricity supply for ships).
Category 3 – air transport: short distances up to 100km covered by electric planes and transport-drones; medium and long distance covered mostly by conventional planes with blended kerosene using about 30% green components. Start seeing small electric planes with up to 20 seats covering the medium range up to 300km.
For all categories artificial intelligence and autonomous transport systems will be used as much as safely possible to save cost of operation and provide 7/24h services.
This transformation needs to be accompanied by large increases of electric power generation based on green technologies, if newly constructed: wind, solar, geothermic, tidal, but also biogas (waste management) and if economical via cable from the mainland or neighbour island. In fact, in an archipelago not every island needs to host every component, be it in transport (e.g. refuelling, maintenance) or any other sector. Perhaps best that each island in an archipelago focusses on one component. Here efficiency and economies of scale should be key issues in a common action plan.
In order to offer more practical support to islands GTI aims to create a visionary concept based on the extremely successful Hydrogen Valley concept invented for the mainland by the Trans-European for Transport Programme of the EC. It has first been established and co-financed as the Zero Emission Valley project in the Auvergne region around Lyon (FR) and then the TSO 2020 project in the region around Groningen (NL), both projects concern electrification of transport and energy storage in hydrogen starting in 2017 with extreme success and leading to a EC initiative of funding such valleys across the European Union. GTI is willing to adapt this concept to islands as “Zero Emission Islands”, tailored to the special requirements of islands.
Perhaps an even wider vision of including the corresponding mainland ports in this concept would not only include an essential component for many islands (e.g. ferries, supply vessels), but also could trigger much more investment from mainland ports (also on islands!), as well as increasing the interest of decision makers from industry and governments in islands. – Simply because “Zero Emission Coasts” would be beneficial to many more citizens!
Image Source: https://www.norwegianshipdesign.no/archive/basto-electric-has-been-delivered