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  • Nigel Hargreaves

Electrifying the Broads

Electrifying the Broads was a feasibility study carried out under the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) launched in March 2021, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. As part of the CMDC, the Department allocated more than £23 million to 55 projects supported by 208 organisations from across the UK.

The CMDC was announced as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of clean maritime technologies and reduce emissions from the sector. The CMDC is supporting the research, design, and development of zero emission vessel and infrastructure solutions to enable clean technologies to commercialise and to accelerate the decarbonisation of the maritime sector. The programme is funding projects from across the entire UK, including in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as from the South West to the North East of England.

This project was characterised in the form of a trilemma requiring dynamic optimisation as it scales with more marine electric vessels taking to the waterways. A whole systems approach was adopted that linked the need for sufficient onboard energy storage against the provision of sufficient shoreside charging facilities to provide 'electric corridors' along inland waterways. Both of these criteria would then need to be balanced with the costs and benefits to facilitate scalability and economic return supporting the local economy.

Key findings included:

  • A battery-electric holiday cruiser is viable with sufficient onboard electrical storage.

  • Shoreside charging infrastructure will be necessary at strategic locations to facilitate 'electric corridors' over the inland waterways.

  • The balance between investment in onboard energy storage and shoreside infrastructure, and returns in terms of greenhouse gas reduction, positive economic and environmental benefits are an optimisation challenge that can be represented as a trilemma.

  • Data from the proposed demonstration will provide essential insights into refining the solutions to meet the needs of this whole systems challenge.

  • Currently, the most cost effective approach to electrification is through a hybrid mix of marine and automotive technologies. Hydrogen may have a role to play by 2030.

  • Scale up will require use of fast AC and rapid DC charging facilities with attractive opportunities for bi-directional charging, especially at boatyards.

  • Carbon abatement must take into account Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. At present batteries represent a large contributor to upstream emissions but this can be reduced when they are built in the UK.

  • Mitigation efforts should focus on converting the most heavily used vessels to electric systems first. In the context of the Broads, these are hire cruisers.


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