Ports are the Gateways to the UK's Energy Transition



Andy Reay,ABP’s Head of Offshore Wind, talks to RenewableUK about the central role he sees its ports playing in the energy transition in the UK.


After 8 years in the offshore wind industry, working with international contractors, I joined Associated British Ports (ABP) a year ago, as it was apparent that the ports sector plays a pivotal part in the UK’s energy transition. Since beginning my role, I have been encouraged by the amount of progress ABP has made and how much it is leading in terms of sustainability and decarbonisation. With a vast land bank and a network of 21 ports, ABP is right at the heart of the UK’s green recovery.


ABP, the UK’s largest ports group, is an essential partner in delivering government objectives on decarbonisation, supporting the growth of renewable energy generation in the UK and achieving the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. In becoming a sponsor member of RenewableUK, we want to play a more prominent role in the renewables industry and help to lead the discussions around how strategically located ports will play an increasingly critical part in the future growth of the UK’s renewable energy industry.


As the largest ports group in the UK, it might seem obvious that ABP supports the largest number of UK O&M (Operations and Maintenance) bases for the Offshore Wind industry, at our Ports of Grimsby, Lowestoft and Barrow. In fact, the Port of Grimsby is currently the world’s largest base for offshore wind O&M activity.


At ABP, we’ve invested over £300 million in recent years to deliver state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure to support the growth of the offshore energy sector, delivering on ambitious goals by working in partnership with our customers, industry leaders and government. For example, our joint investment with Siemens Gamesa delivered the £310 million offshore wind manufacturing facility at Green Port Hull, helping to accelerate the growth of offshore wind energy generation and secure supply chain benefits for the local economy. It now employs over a 1,000 people, servicing the growing Offshore Wind industry in the North Sea.


Following the success of Green Port Hull, we’re developing ABP’s Lowestoft Eastern Energy Facility (LEEF) to meet the offshore energy industry’s requirements for increased operations and maintenance for the growing sector in the Southern North Sea. The LEEF project will create additional quay space and berthing capacity, new infill land and a deeper harbour approach to accommodate larger vessels offering flexible operations with direct quayside access; and the site will also benefit from shoreside power, while retaining fish landing sites. Yet again, we can’t underestimate the positive economic impact the growing renewable energy industry will have on the local economy and jobs in the whole region.


At ABP, we’re also preparing our port in Port Talbot to serve the Celtic Sea offshore wind zone where plans are underway to deploy floating offshore wind turbines over the next few decades; a specialised technology that will require localised supply chains, pre-assembly and manufacturing across the Celtic sea region. By reconfiguring port infrastructure and building on existing assets, as well as working with ABPmer, our hydrographic and marine survey consultancy, and our UK Dredging operation, we can be ready to support these exciting projects which, in turn, will support economic growth in the South Wales region.

Before joining ABP I didn’t realise how much progress it has made in minimising its impact on the environment. I was impressed to discover that we have invested over £55 million so far in low emission and renewable generation technologies, including clean energy in port operations. In fact, last year, all 21 of our ports gained an ISO14001 Certification in Environmental Management and, since 2014, ABP has achieved an impressive reduction of over 35% in our own greenhouse gas emissions.



ABP plans to create to create world-class floating offshore wind facilities at Port Talbot

Another aspect of ABP’s success in sustainability that attracted me to the company is the extent to of its on-port renewable energy generation to power its operations. Since 2010, ABP has come a long way in increasing the renewable energy it generates, which has benefitted entire port communities. Currently, 17 of our 21 ports have renewable energy generation projects on site. ABP’s Port of Hull is home to the UK’s largest commercial rooftop solar array, which was installed in 2010, and represents a saving of 2,600 tonnes of CO2e per annum, which equates to the energy needs of 1,450 average UK homes.


In 2020, ABP generated 25 GWh of renewable energy, which was an increase of 11% on 2019. ABP now has circa 29 MW of operational wind and solar, 24 MW through solar energy and 5.3 MW through wind energy installed capacity. Our plans, over the coming three to five years, anticipate in excess of another 40 MW of wind and solar being commissioned, along with energy storage. This will help facilitate further electrification of dockside equipment and transportation at the ports, provide additional zero carbon power for our customers and potentially also power production of zero or low carbon fuels, such as green hydrogen.


We’re also working with other organisations to seek the development of energy storage, alternative fuels and innovative technologies, which will accelerate the reduction of emissions towards zero across the whole supply chain. ABP is a leading partner in the Zero Carbon Humber initiative, which has brought together international energy companies, heavy industry, leading infrastructure and logistics operators, engineering firms and academic institutions, to realise the potential to decarbonise the UK’s largest industrial cluster. ABP is also a founding partner in Operation Zero, an industry coalition of 28 members from across the offshore wind supply chain, with the shared goal of accelerating the decarbonisation of the O&M vessels in the North Sea offshore wind sector.


From supporting renewable and low carbon energy production, such as offshore wind, to the future of hydrogen production and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, our ports are helping to decarbonise energy generation, transport and industry. We look forward to working together with RenewableUK, and our partners, to continue to drive policies and collaborate widely for a sustainable future.

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