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Port of Valencia

Spain has embarked on making the Port of Valencia more green.

The transport sector accounts for a substantial portion of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with maritime transportation being responsible for a significant 13% of the transport sector’s emissions.

In the quest for a more sustainable future, what steps are being taken to “green” maritime operations and mitigate their environmental impact swiftly?

Efforts have coalesced at ports worldwide, with authorities, terminal operators, shipping companies, and other stakeholders collaborating to enhance the sector’s environmental performance.

Spain has been proactive in this arena; the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge has crafted a carbon footprint assessment methodology tailored for maritime applications, which has been applied to the Port Authority of Valencia’s emission-reduction initiatives, encompassing scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

Under the ambitious “Valenciaport 2030, Zero Emissions” strategy, the Port of Valencia has adopted a suite of eco-innovations that stand out in the European context and have precipitated pivotal organizational changes.

With the adoption of shore power, ships at berth can now connect to the electrical grid, reducing their dependence on polluting onboard generators. The port has championed the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a cleaner alternative fuel for ships and port vehicles alike.

The installation of wind turbines and solar panels is underway to supply clean energy for port operations. Additionally, the port authority is transitioning its vehicle fleet to hybrid and electric models.

Tactics such as traffic management and optimized scheduling are being employed to curtail fuel consumption and consequent emissions from port activities.

The strategy also encompasses enhancements to port infrastructure. The port is embracing smart grid technologies to fine-tune energy use and distribution, while digital tools are being leveraged to bolster operational efficiency and diminish avoidable emissions.

New construction projects are integrating sustainable materials and design principles. The port has also rolled out initiatives aimed at improving waste management and promoting recycling.

Private entities within the port have been encouraged to adopt the green strategy and institute their sustainability plans.

An EU-funded endeavor is trialing innovative technologies, including IoT and AI, to further ameliorate environmental performance. The port authority is engaged in research collaborations aimed at discovering new green technologies and solutions.

Despite an uptick in traffic, the port’s carbon footprint has not increased proportionately. While the zero emissions by 2030 target is ambitious, the port is charting a course toward significant ecological improvements.

The success of these changes hinges on the collaboration of various port stakeholders, including shipping companies, terminal operators, and businesses. The Port of Valencia’s dedication to green initiatives is setting a commendable example for ports globally.

The initial data from Valencia offer key insights, notably that the volume of ship traffic — particularly containers and cruises — significantly influences the port’s carbon footprint.

From 2008 to 2016, the port’s carbon footprint remained stable despite a 24% increase in traffic. When emissions are compared using the base year’s factors to mitigate external influences, a 17% reduction is observed.

Looking ahead, the port is poised to adopt renewable energy self-consumption policies as it strives for further improvements, particularly in scope 3 activities.

Ports serve as more than critical infrastructure for economic expansion; they are a nexus of opportunity for environmental innovation.

The Port of Valencia is not only the fifth busiest seaport in Europe and the second in Spain for container traffic, but it also fuels 50,000 jobs and supports an economically vibrant region responsible for 51% of Spain’s GDP within a 350 km radius.

The transport sector is a significant energy consumer, responsible for 29% of global energy use and a commensurate share of GHG emissions.

Maritime transport, while accountable for 13% of transport’s GHG emissions, also emits other noxious gases like SOx and NOx.

Nevertheless, maritime transport offers substantial benefits over other modes. When maritime options are infeasible, rail presents a more sustainable alternative.

For instance, road transport not only results in a higher incidence of accidents and traffic congestion but also accounts for over 60% of transport-related GHG emissions.

Ports transcend their role as essential economic infrastructure. In environmental performance projects, providing accurate information is crucial to engage stakeholders.

Port terminals have exerted considerable effort to gauge their carbon footprint, yet methodologies vary widely, and often only direct emissions are assessed. Comprehensive studies that include all three emission scopes under a structured methodology are lacking.

How did the Port of Valencia advance its environmental performance?

The port has dedicated considerable effort in recent years to developing initiatives aimed at environmental enhancement.

The national government’s research assessed the carbon footprint of Valencia Port using a standardized methodology that encompasses direct and indirect emissions (scopes 1, 2, and 3).

In the meticulous process of quantifying the Port of Valencia’s environmental impact, the life cycle analysis method stands at the forefront. This comprehensive approach delineates the system’s boundaries, clarifies the greenhouse gases involved, constructs a robust calculation formula, and deciphers the data harvested.

Employing the “Guide for the Calculation and Management of the Carbon Footprint in Port Facilities by Levels,” the port aligns with the esteemed guidance of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This Guide is not merely a set of instructions; it’s an alignment with global environmental aspirations.

The system’s boundaries are meticulously drawn to encompass the port’s sphere of influence, encapsulating port offices, the comings and goings within the stockyard, the machinery along the docking line, and the ebb and flow of ship traffic within the port’s watery embrace.

This article was originally posted in Tomorrow’s Affairs.

While advocating for systemic change over 4 decades, Gordon Feller has been called upon to help leaders running some of the world’s major organizations: World Bank, UN, World Economic Forum, Lockheed, Apple, IBM, Ford, the national governments of Germany, Canada, US – to name a few. With 40 years in Silicon Valley, Feller’s 300+ published articles cover the full spectrum of energy/environment/technology issues, reporting from more than 40 countries. Obama/Biden appointee to Federal comm. on innovation; Global Fellow at The Smithsonian; Winner: Prime Minister Abe Fellowship, Japan.