The shipping industry plays a critical role in the global economy, carrying approximately 90% of the total tonnage of world’s traded goods. Shipping propulsion has changed radically since the mid-19th century, from the renewable energy of sail power, to the coal power of steamships, to the predominance of heavy fuel oil and marine diesel oil. But renewable energy technologies could transform the global shipping fleet again, at all levels and scales.
This IRENA technology brief summarises the current status and applications of renewable energy solutions for shipping, along with barriers and opportunities for further deployment. The brief provides recommendations to policy makers on promoting realistic renewable energy solutions, which can support energy efficiency and reduced emissions in the sector.
- Renewable power applications for ships of all sizes include options for primary or hybrid propulsion, as well as on-board and shore-side energy use.
- Renewables can be integrated through retrofits to the existing fleet or incorporation into new shipbuilding and design, with a small number of new ships striving for l00% renewable energy or zero-emissions technology for primary propulsion in the long run.
- Certain applications offer immediate growth potential, even if the contribution of renewables to the energy mix of the shipping sector remains limited in the near and medium terms.
The International Maritime Organisation has called for improving energy efficiency in new ships. But the transition to a clean shipping sector requires a rapid shift back to energy-efficient designs using renewable energy technologies.