California asks shipping companies to avoid shore power during heatwave
In an ironic twist, California officials are encouraging ocean-going ships not to plug into shore power for several days to reduce demand on the power grid during a record-breaking heatwave and instead use sources of dirtier energy for shore power because electrical infrastructure installed to reduce pollution, including climate-warming greenhouse gases, is now at risk.
Governor Gavin Newsome issued a new emergency proclamation on Friday afternoon aimed at preserving electrical capacity which gives ship operators the option of not plugging into shore power stations until next Saturday. Vessels docked between September 3 and 7 will not be required to use shore power until next Sunday.
Current regulations require that 80% of container, cruise and reefer ships calling at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland use shore power, or alternative “hood” technology that covers funnels a ship’s exhaust to contain and treat harmful emissions.
“As good corporate citizens, we anticipate that many of our member vessels will participate at Governor Newsom’s request,” Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel for the Pacific Maritime Shipping Association, said in an email.
The governor’s executive order said arriving ships can temporarily use auxiliary motors to power on-board systems, such as lights, refrigerators, computers and pumps, while loading and unloading. Ships already at berth also have permission to disconnect from the electrical system during the heat emergency.
Auxiliary engines are much smaller because they are not used for propulsion. Under California and US law, ships are only required to use low sulfur distillates or gaseous fuels refined in US waters.
Jacobs said it would be unrealistic for a ship that has ongoing cargo operations to suspend container loading and unloading activities to bring in an additional power crew ashore to disconnect a ship. Due to the bank holiday weekend and emergency calls for power infrastructure support, specialist manpower to manage vessel connections could be limited, he surmised.
Newsom called on several elements of the California economy, including the marine industry, to reduce energy consumption during the heat episode. Temperatures are intensifying and are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees warmer than normal through the middle of the week, increasing demand for air conditioning and straining the power grid. Temperatures are expected to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday and 95 on Monday.
The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) predicts energy demand this weekend to exceed 47,000 megawatts, the highest since the summer of 2017. The agency called on Californians to save energy from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. avoiding the use of large household appliances. and set the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher, health permitting. Newsom’s order also gives state agencies and utility operators the power to temporarily increase power generation, including the use of standby generators. A prolonged drought reduced the state’s ability to generate hydroelectric power.
“The duration of this heat wave is different from those in recent history, increasing the length of time the grid will face peak demand,” Newsom said as he announced the emergency measures.
California has issued similar heat advisories for ports four times in 2020 and 2021.
Beginning in 2023, California Air Resources Board rules will apply per terminal rather than per shipping company, and will require ships to monitor emissions at all times, with permitted exceptions.
The updated regulations also cover auto transporters and tankers for the first time. Auto carriers will have to comply starting in 2025. Tankers docking at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach must also comply starting in 2025, while Northern California tankers have until 2027.
Container ship compliance with alternative marine power rules was 77%, with 42% of ship calls by Hapag-Lloyd and 46% of Maersk calls using shore power in the first half of 2022, according to statistics compiled by the Port of Los Angeles.
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