Should Ships Switch to Shore Power in India?

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Countries across Europe and North America require ships to be hooked up to shore power in port to prevent them from running their own engines and generating harmful emissions right on their doorstep. How effective could such measures be for a developing country like India, which has a history of poor air quality and associated public health problems?

This question was the impetus for a new study by the Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University Engineering and Public Policy (EPP). Candidate Priyank Lathwal and his advisors, Parth Vaishnav, formerly EPP and now at the University of Michigan, and Granger Morgan, professor at EPP. Since the international regulation of emissions caused by shipping is becoming ever more stringent, India itself is also pushing ahead with electrification and modernization in a large number of technological fields. The possible inclusion of shore power infrastructure in this initiative makes this question particularly important in determining the best path for a rapidly changing India.

As head of data collection, Lathwal spent a year braving the notoriously murky waters of data gathering in India. After collecting information on shipping from every major port in India, they were able to calculate individual ship emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases such as PM2.5, SO2, NOxand Co2. From there, they were able to determine the net effect on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for ships that run on their own electricity compared to shore power connections.

Lathwal, Vaishnav, and Morgan were surprised by what they found. While one might think that a country with significant air quality concerns could benefit from pollution-reducing technology such as shore power, the authors found that implementing shore power technology in India actually brings little benefit.

The main reason is that power generation in India is still so fossil fuel oriented. The differences in emissions and greenhouse gases generated by a cargo ship in port and those generated by the network infrastructure required to power a ship connected to shore are negligible. While countries with cleaner grids like the US benefit from shore power regulation, those that still rely on coal power may be better off investing in a cleaner grid than switching ships to shore power.

The team’s study did not include cruise lines, which are not as common in Indian ports as elsewhere in the world. This is important when considering the benefits of shore power in other developing countries, where cruise ships can be more frequent, as a cruise ship in port typically has significantly higher energy demands than a cargo ship.

As emerging economies like India move forward, research like this can help make the most of the finite resources available. While shore power may not be the solution to India’s air quality problems, another area the team is interested in is the emissions from cargo handling and the short-haul truckers working in and around the port. Because these trucks only have to travel a short distance, they are often the dirtiest and least efficient trucks in a fleet of vehicles. Examining key links like this in the supply chain opens up new opportunities to improve efficiency and public health as countries like India lead the way.

How shipping ports can become more sustainable

Provided by Carnegie Mellon University

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