Skip to main content
News article8 March 2023Directorate-General for Environment

On-site renewable energy generation could help decarbonise shipbuilding given suitable incentives

Issue 596: Researchers say that application of a hybrid renewable energy system on a large Italian shipyard could pay for itself in 3.53 years and reduce air emissions in the construction phase, but incentives are needed to mitigate the financial

On-site renewable energy generation could help decarbonise shipbuilding given suitable incentives
Photo by Alexey Seafarer, Shutterstock

Maritime transport is responsible for 11% of global transport CO2 emissions and 2.89% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While renewable energies make a 26% contribution to electricity sector, they contribute only 1% in heavy industries such as shipbuilding.

To meet zero emissions the design, construction, operation and dismantling of ships could be taken into consideration. Decarbonisation in the operational phase of ships has received significant attention, however, there has been little research and attention on the construction and dismantling phases.

This study looks at a large shipyard in Italy – a prominent shipbuilding nation in Europe – and considers the technical, economic and environmental dimensions of potential renewable-energy provision options.

The shipyard currently uses three energy sources: grid electricity, priced at €0.16 per kilowatt hour (kWh), diesel and acetylene (a hydrocarbon). The researchers assessed the site for the potential to install solar (photovoltaic) panels and wind turbines. They calculated the average availability of solar and wind resources at the location using data from the Global Solar and Global Wind Atlases and Copernicus (the EU Earth Observation Programme). They used current market prices to estimate the costs of purchasing renewable energy infrastructure, diesel generators, other essential components (such as batteries and inverters) and diesel (for the generators).

Using software for simulating small energy grids (HOMER) and Python the researchers estimated the environmental benefits, capital cost, average energy cost and total cost over a 25-year period for six scenarios (the first five being standalone models):

  • solar energy only;
  • wind energy only;
  • solar with diesel generators only;
  • wind with diesel generators only;
  • solar, wind and diesel generators only;
  • solar wind and diesel generators with connection to the national grid (grid connected).

The shipyard could accommodate 2 700 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels and one wind turbine, according to the researchers. They report that the solar-only scenario would produce the cheapest power, with a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) (i.e. the lifetime costs per unit of energy produced) of €0.046 per kW hour (kWh) and a discounted payback period (accounting for the diminishing value of money over time) of 6.2 years. However, this would only provide an average of 60.2% of the annual energy requirement for the shipyard, they say, leaving a total energy deficit.

The wind-only scenario does not pay back within 25 years, according to the researchers, and only provides 43.6% of the required energy. The other scenarios are all able to meet energy requirements, they say, but the high price of diesel raises the energy costs and extends the payback period.

However, they report that Scenario six, which includes electricity grid connection, requires less diesel and is more efficient, with an LCOE of €0.083 per kWh and discounted payback period of 3.53 years1. This scenario generates emissions of 3.35 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (tCO2/y), they say, compared to 5.53 tCO2/year for the current system.

The researchers argue that whilst this system can reduce air emissions and ongoing energy costs, the capital cost of installing it – estimated at €3.40 million – is a substantial barrier to implementation. They suggest that economic incentives at international, regional and national level could reduce the financial risk and facilitate the introduction of hybrid renewable energy systems in large shipyards. They add that this type of assessment may encourage decision makers to adopt renewable energy systems.

  1. It should be noted that these calculations are based on a specific country (Italy) and are heavily dependent on the energy market, which has been highly volatile in the past year.


Vakili, S., Schönborn, A., & Ölçer, A. I. (2022). Techno-economic feasibility of photovoltaic, wind and hybrid electrification systems for stand-alone and grid-connected shipyard electrification in Italy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 366, 132945.

To cite this article/service:

Science for Environment Policy”: European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by the Science Communication Unit, The University of the West of England, Bristol.

Notes on content:

The contents and views included in Science for Environment Policy are based on independent, peer reviewed research and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission. Please note that this article is a summary of only one study. Other studies may come to other conclusions.


Publication date
8 March 2023
Directorate-General for Environment

EU Environment newsletter

EU Environment newsletters deliver the latest updates about the European Commission’s environmental priorities straight to your inbox.