THE FEASIBILITY OF ELECTRIFYING MAINE’S LOBSTER FLEET BY 2050

In 2020, the State of Maine set an ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.  This is a call to action for all sectors of Maine’s economy.  To meet a goal this big, we need the creativity and ingenuity of everyone.  Ideas we didn’t think were possible will become reality.

Maine’s 5,000-boat lobster fleet lands almost $500 million of lobsters each year, some 80% of the value of Maine’s entire fisheries sector.  Fishing, and especially lobster fishing, is not only essential to the well-being of coastal communities, it’s a part of Maine’s heritage.

The fishing industry relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Maine’s lobster fleet is powered by relatively carbon-intensive diesel engines.  Fuel can account for as much as 60% of total fishing costs.1  Even though fish (including crustaceans) are a low-emissions alternative to land-based protein, the fishing industry is still a significant contributor to global CO2 emissions. 2,3,4

With Maine’s 30-year goal to reduce emissions by 80%, now is the time to understand the technical feasibility of de-carbonizing Maine’s lobster fleet.  Marine propulsion systems are evolving rapidly.  Electric engines are now being used in ferries, but these boats are large and can carry heavy batteries.  Their average trip length is also relatively short.

Lobster boats are small by comparison, can carry less weight for their size, and often are at sea for 12-18 hours each day.  A different solution will be required.

This project aims to evaluate the options and chart a path forward.

DELIVERABLE – PHASE 1

By November 1,  2021, we will produce a report on the feasibility of electrifying the Maine lobster fleet by 2050.  We will work with lobstermen, marine engineers, and energy experts to make sure we understand what will work for fishermen while also significantly reducing (or eliminating) greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on our research to date, hydrogen (H2) fuel cell technology appears to be the most likely solution.  H2 is already used in various city transit systems (e.g., buses), which require similar levels of horsepower.  H2 can be stored at the dock much like diesel fuel.  However, battery storage technology is rapidly evolving and may also be a solution.  Our study will evaluate all the alternatives.

SOME KEY QUESTIONS OUR STUDY WILL ANSWER

What are the current greenhouse gas emissions of Maine’s lobster fleet?

What is the state of electric and hybrid marine propulsion systems globally?

Is this technology adaptable to small fishing boats (lobster boats)?

Can existing technology meet the daily energy demands of a long-range lobster boat?

What infrastructure would be needed to deliver “refueling” dockside (e.g., H2 storage, high-speed recharging stations).

How would we source green fuel, either green H2 or green electricity?

If H2 is a viable solution for boats, could Maine’s planned offshore wind drive an electrolysis process to generate green H2 fuel for fishermen?

How many jobs would be generated over the next 30 years in retrofitting the existing fleet?

What incentive systems might be created to fund the cost of transitioning the fleet?

PHASE II

With the insights of the feasibility study, we plan to seek funding to build a prototype, electric-powered lobster boat.  We will also design the energy infrastructure of a coastal fishing community where its lobster fleet could run on electricity.

(download project flyer by clicking on image above)

For more information…

Contact John Hagan at: jhagan@maineclimatetable.org

REFERENCES

  1. H. Tyedmers, R. Watson, D. Pauly, Fueling global fishing fleets, AMBIO A J. Human Environment 34 (2005) 635–638
  2. Driscoll, P. Tyedmers, Fuel use and greenhouse gas emission implications of fisheries management: the case of the New England Atlantic herring fishery, Marine Policy 34 (2010) 353–359.
  3. W.R. Parker, P.H. Tyedmers, Fuel consumption of global fishing fleets: current understanding and knowledge gaps, Fish and Fisheries 16 (2014) 684–696.
  4. W.R. Parker, J.L. Blanchard, C. Gardner, B.S. Green, K. Hartmann, P.H. Tyedmers, R.A. Watson, Fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions of world fisheries, Nature Climate Change 8 (2018) 333–337.