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A new project to assess the viability of using electric vessels on London’s River Thames to feed stored electricity back into the capital’s energy network is underway.

A collaboration between UK Power Networks, LCP Delta, and Marine Zero, the partners say the Electric Thames project could help the marine sector to reduce its emissions while also shoring up energy supply.

Using a principle similar to night storage heaters, battery-powered vessels on the Thames could store green energy when it is cheap to do so, such as when the wind is blowing or sun is shining, and feed it back to the grid during peak electricity hours.

The project, which is in its initial ‘discovery’ or scoping phase, supports the Port of London Authority’s transition to net zero emissions and London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s pathway for London to be Net Zero Carbon by 2030. The discovery phase of the project, which is funded via the Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund, will conclude at the end of next month.

Thames vessel and quay operators will be surveyed over the coming weeks to identify and map out their needs. This will allow power suppliers to plan and complete any works needed to facilitate the move to cleaner vessel and river operations along the River Thames.

‘Electric Thames isn’t just about achieving zero emissions on our capital’s river – it is even more exciting and significant than that,’ said Andy Hurley, director at Marine Zero. ‘Along with our project partners at LCP Delta and UK Power Networks, we are developing a completely new approach to increasing energy flexibility by developing new income streams new and flexible solutions for vessel and quay operators.

‘We are delighted that Marine Zero has been selected to support the discovery phase of the project using our maritime experience and intelligence, and we look forward to engaging with operators along the Thames over the coming weeks.’

Luca Grella, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, added: ‘This is a first-of-its-kind project in the UK, and one that is operating at the forefront of energy innovation. Tapping into this potential will not only help us create a cleaner Thames for everyone but will also give us an additional supply of flexible, green energy which will help our transition to a decarbonised energy system.

‘We’re thrilled to be leading the way in this space and are also looking forward to seeing how this approach could be scaled to other rivers across the country.’

Phillip Twiddy, Senior Consultant, LCP Delta, commented: ‘It’s fantastic to be involved in such a strategic project that could deliver some real benefits. The project aims to help the marine sector lower their emissions yet also have certainty in their energy source. It will also help to accelerate the energy transition.’

The partners say the outcomes of the project could shape a new whole-system planning framework for the UK’s rivers, canals, and waterways, offering insights for decarbonisation and electrification that could be replicated across the country.

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