Energy Observer in London for the grand finale of its Northern European tour

By | October 7, 2019

Photo: Antoine Drancey

  • Energy Observer, the first hydrogen boat to go around the world and the first French ambassador of the Sustainable Development Goals
  • London, the iconic 47th stop of the Energy Observer world tour
  • The boat will be moored from the 5th to 13th October 2019 at St. Katherine Docks, under London’s famous Tower Bridge
  • An exhibition is set up and accessible to all to discover the boat and its Odyssey for the future

Having sailed 18,000 nautical miles since leaving Saint-Malo in 2017, Energy Observer has joined London for the final leg of its 2019 tour in Northern Europe. This floating laboratory, a harbinger for the energy systems of tomorrow, is docked under Tower Bridge. It is accompanied by its travelling exhibition, which is located at St. Katharine Docks and is freely accessible to the general public.

Energy Observer is the first hydrogen ship around the world to be energy autonomous. This electrically propelled vessel of the future operates through a mix of renewable energies (solar, wind, hydro-generation) and a system that produces carbon-free hydrogen from seawater. There are no CO2 emissions, no fine particles and no noise that could disturb the underwater fauna. This technological and scientific challenge aims to test cutting-edge technologies in extreme conditions, anticipating the energy networks of the future that could be used on land but also to raise awareness among the general public and decision-makers on the energy transition.

The expedition in Northern Europe was marked by many highlights, including the voyage last August to Spitsbergen (in the Arctic) in complete autonomy, powered solely by renewable energies and hydrogen – without emissions, without fine particles and without noises. A world first!

The Energy Observer – the future of renewable energy solutions sails into London. Photo by Lloyd Images/Energy Observer

Jérôme Delafosse, Energy Observer Expedition Leader and Director, says: “Energy Observer’s Future Odyssey aims to accelerate energy transition through the deployment of renewable energies and green hydrogen, as well as the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as set by the United Nations in its 2030 Agenda. This stopover in Svalbard, a real global climate barometer with temperatures increasing 2 to 3 times faster than anywhere else, reminded us of the urgency to act on a universal level and to implement solutions available now to accelerate our necessary move to ecological and energy transition.”

The third year of navigation is coming to an end in the British capital, which has in place an ambitious policy to support energy transition thanks to the use of hydrogen and renewable energies. The city is also home to the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation, which is setting up targets to reduce the speed of shipping vessels in order to reduce the sector’s CO2 emissions.

“London, the last stopover in our Northern Europe tour. What a long way we have come!” comments Victorien Erussard, President, Founder and Captain of Energy Observer. “Energy Observer was able to discover the many initiatives deployed by the major capitals of Northern Europe in terms of energy and environmental transition. We also managed a navigation of 5,700 km from Saint-Petersburg to Spitsbergen in the Arctic in total autonomy! A symbolic moment that reminds us of the urgency to act in the face of climate change, which is particularly prominent in this polar zone. We are very happy to arrive in the UK and discover all the initiatives that are being undertaken here, such as the first ever HydroFLEX hydrogen train, a prototype train that will replace diesel trains to decarbonise the British rail network by 2040. And we are honoured to have both the IRENA and IMO present at this press conference, each playing a major role in energy transition on land and at sea.”

In the UK, for several years, private companies and public authorities have been involved in the development of renewable energies, and the country has reduced its CO2 emissions by 38% since 1990 – better than any other industrialised country. 2019 is announced as the year in which renewable energies will exceed fossil fuels for the first time. With the objective of increasing the share of renewables to 80% by 2030 – half of which is offshore wind energy – and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The OceanWings wings have proved their worth, especially when sailing in the Arctic, as they optimise the energy input of the wind (by up to 42%) and save energy traditionally allocated to the propulsion of the boat, thus making it possible to produce hydrogen while sailing.Carbon-free hydrogen has huge potential to support a sustainable energy transition. Diversity is a source of resilience, so the energy mix developed on Energy Observer shows that practical alternatives to fossil fuels do exist and can be developed both on land and at sea. Energy Observer, a clean tech laboratory, has implemented and tested efficient systems, and it offers viable solutions to accelerate the energy transition, one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

Jérôme Delafosse, Geneviève Van Rossum, Kitack Lim, Francesco La Camera and Victorien Erussard onboard the Energy Observer, the world’s first hydrogen vessel, in London on its 47th stopover, the final in 2019 as part of its 6 year world tour. Photo by Lloyd Images/Energy Observer

“Energy Observer shows that with the innovations and technologies available today, it’s possible to accelerate low-carbon development to meet our climate and sustainable development goals,” said IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera. “Hydrogen based on renewables holds significant promise in the context of decarbonising transport and other sectors that are difficult to electrify. This boat underscores the fact that energy transition brings new opportunities in all end-use sectors.”

Mr Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), says: “IMO adopted an initial strategy to reduce and then phase out greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. The IMO strategy is expected to drive a new propulsion revolution for ships. At IMO, we are taking a practical approach. IMO is engaged in several major global projects, which bring Member States and the industry together to promote the uptake of new technologies and technology transfer. IMO GHG strategy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships has sent a clear signal to innovators that this is the way forward. However, action needs to be accelerated if its goals are to be achieved.”

“The Energy Observer Team already had the opportunity to present the project during the last Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at the IMO,” says Ms Geneviève Van Rossum, Ambassador of France to the IMO. “This event today makes things concrete, and confirms the feasibility of zero emission maritime transport. This vessel is also a testimony of France’s political commitment to the issue of reducing carbon emissions in the maritime sector. Energy Observer is a technological showcase of French industrial know-how, and of the dynamics of all French companies and institutions which engage in the energy transition. In order to achieve the objectives of the IMO strategy, new ships will have to use these technologies tomorrow.”

Energy Observer is currently conducting an Odyssey for the Future that will last six years (2017-2022). During this time, it will visit 50 countries and call at 101 ports to raise public awareness about key aspects of the environmental transition, in particular renewable energies, biodiversity, mobility, and the circular economy. This world tour is led by Victorien Erussard, founder and captain, and France’s Chief Ambassador for the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, and Jérôme Delafosse, head of the expedition and director of the documentary series.

Energy Observer received the High Patronage of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, as well as the official support from the European Union, UNESCO and IRENA.