Carbon Zero Port of Dover? 

Dover's Curve and clocktower, with participants at ACM in foreground
Attenders at Port of Dover’s Annual Consultation gather at the Curve. Photo supplied by S. Gleave

On Wednesday 25 May 2022, Port of Dover, Dover Harbour Board held its Annual Consultative Meeting. The front page headline in the Dover Mercury two weeks earlier had announced that the Port planned to be Carbon Zero by 2030. The Port’s press release included plans for the sourcing of alternative fuels, the utilisation of renewable energy sources, Port electrification, off-setting, minimizing carbon emissions in procurement, and development projects working with the community and supply chains and customers.

Port of Dover facing up to carbon-zero challenges

At the public meeting, Port of Dover’s CEO, Doug Bannister, spoke of challenges that the Port is continuing to work on (look out for Kent Bylines ‘Challenges for the Port of Dover’). With gridlock across Kent on roads to the Port hitting national headlines almost daily, the need for a good news story involving the Port is obvious. 

Doug Bannister spoke with enthusiasm of the sustainability plans of the Port of Dover and its ‘Statement of Intent’. He said Portsmouth is working for its operations to be carbon neutral by 2030 and Dover intends to surpass that by making its Port operation carbon neutral by 2025. They also intend to influence transport partners, coaches and trucks, etc, and establish a ‘green corridor’ with Dover’s sister ports in France: Calais and Dunkirk.

graphic of PoD's carbon-zero commitments
Graphic from Port of Dover’s Web site outlining the latest commitments to reducing carbon to zero by 2025. Image © copyright Port of Dover

For example, the process is underway to replace diesel on Port vehicles with hydrogenated vegetable oil or electricity. Similarly, Port of Dover was keen to work with the roll-on coach industry and explore the process of upgrading from Euro5 to Euro6 vehicles to help with decarbonisation, while also recognising that group travel is already lower carbon than private cars. 

Renewable energy generation

Doug was asked by a climate campaigner from Transition Dover (the transition town movement helping community work on the climate crisis) in the audience whether the Port of Dover’s ambitions stretched to generating renewable energy on Port premises as other Ports, such as Liverpool, have done. 

His answer was, “We are just starting to look at generation technologies; we are looking at what demand would be. Yes, we are looking at wind and solar (which we have introduced a little of). Hydroelectricity in particular looks very interesting, not just tides, but also the constant currents in the straits. We are a little way off. If you have other ideas for us to look at, we’d like to connect with you on this.”

Hybrid-powered ships

He also explained “We can’t run ferries on electricity, it would brown-out Kent, because it would push up electricity usage from 4 megawatts to 40 megawatts, so that is not possible. But bringing ferry operators into the fellowship of sustainability plans is necessary. The emerging technology for ferries is hybrid, two new ships are hybrid, able to charge and run off batteries in a Port environment. The world is looking at this issue.” 

Landscape of Dover Port
A view of the Port of Dover. Photo courtesy of S. Gleave

Cllr Beccy Sawbridge and Nick Shread of Dover and Deal Green Party had suggested in an open letter to Port of Dover published in the Dover Mercury on 18 May that, “We applaud Port of Dover all the more, given that they are making these commitments after being dealt such a lousy set of cards in recent years by a less-than-competent set of Conservative ministers.

“In April 2020, our two Green Councillors on Dover Town Council, Cllr Sawbridge and Cllr Garnett, submitted four pages of detailed suggestions for the Dover TC ‘Ambition Plan’. Our suggestions included for Dover Town Council to send a letter to Port of Dover to ask about:

“(a) plans to put solar PV on top of Port buildings and to install wind turbines on the harbour walls like the Ports of Boulogne and Liverpool,

“(b) plans for the Port’s truck and car parking areas to be made ‘non-engine-idling zones’, to include infrastructure for fridge trucks to plug-in to electric chargers,

“(c) for Dover TC to invite community energy enterprises (such as Kent Community Energy and Big Solar Coop/Share Energy) to speak to Council about how they could encourage community owned renewable energy projects on business and larger (public) buildings in Dover,

“(d) for solar-powered boat trips of our Port to be facilitated via Destination Dover (like those that have been so successful in La Rochelle for 25 years).” 

Residents’ hopes are high

With only 7½ years before 2030, there will be thousands of Dover district residents keen both to talk constructively to the Port of Dover about their plans, and to see the evidence of carbon zero plans taking shape soon.