A P.E.I. company that just launched a hybrid lobster boat is applauding a new report promoting incentives and targets for electrifying marine vessels.
AKA Energy Systems is hoping to launch its own all-electric lobster boat within the next year, following up on its work with hybrid vessels.
"We got our first hybrid boat out in the summer, so that's something that we've been working on for a couple of years," said Jason Aspin, AKA's CEO.
"Electrification, all-electric or hybrid, is definitely a good way to go to de-carbonize the sector."
The Oceans North report said the key to jumpstarting the shift is for governments to set a "market signal" by setting clear targets for emission reductions, as has occurred in the motor vehicle sector.
The study calls for Ottawa to include commercial fisheries in its marine climate action plan, and set the goal of having "at least 10 per cent of the lobster fleet, about 300 boats, powered by electricity or zero-emission fuels such as green hydrogen by 2030."
Jason Aspin, AKA's CEO, on the production floor at Poole's Corner, P.E.I. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
Aspin said incentives and targets will be key to getting there.
"We've been talking to the federal government, the provincial government. There's been discussions of one-third, one-third, one-third type of thing. That would be a perfect sort of setup," Aspin said, referring to a three-way cost-sharing on the purchase of new boats.
"Whether we get that much — as far as incentives go — or not, it's hard to say, but it's going to take something like that to to get things rolling."
Aspin said his company is getting close to having an electric lobster boat to sell commercially.
"The fishery is a business, basically, for people that own the boat. So I think… the price is going to have to come down to the point where it makes business sense with the incentives," he said.
"You're going to have to get a payback in five years or something like that to see some uptake."
The new diesel-electric hybrid fishing vessel is thought to be the first of its kind. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
He added: "Our company has invested a lot in the early solution and we're not at a price point yet where I think it makes commercial sense. But we're getting there now, and I'd say we're within six months to a year of being able to put something on the market that is within the price point that makes sense, if there's incentives."
The fishing industry all through Atlantic Canada has been very interested — more interest than we really expected.
— Jason Aspin, AKA Energy Systems
Aspin said he has been surprised by the level of interest from the fishing industry on P.E.I.
"Actually, over the last two years, the fishing industry all through Atlantic Canada has been very interested — more interest than we really expected," he said.
"I think everybody's realizing that reducing the carbon footprint associated with our businesses and our day-to-day lives is an important part about saving the planet."
Aspin said the adoption of electric marine vessels may follow the same trajectory as EVs did in the auto industry.
"I think there will be the early adopters, and then just the same as the electric car market, you're going to see it take off more quickly once some early adopters have proven the technology and it's shown to work," he said.
"All-electric is great for the near-shore fishery. If you've got a longer distance to go, then all-electric is harder. And what we'll be seeing when it's not all-electric is probably the uptake of green fuels. So either net-zero fuels or totally green fuels like hydrogen."
Oceans North said one of the goals of the report is to support fishers in the energy transition from diesel to electric motor.
"There's been lots of support for different sectors in the economy to start planning a pathway to zero emissions by 2050," said Brent Dancey, director of marine climate action at Oceans North.
"We thought we would get started, and support a sector that hasn't been as engaged or included in government plans…
The new Wolfe Islander IV is a zero-emission ferry boat which will run between Kingston and Wolfe Island in Ontario. (Submitted by Darryl Woodman)
"Basically we have to go from zero to full electrification by 2050… It all really hinges around demonstration projects," Dancey said.
"This technology — battery, electric-propulsion system — is commercially available around the world. So really we wanted to kind of bring the technology, prove to people that this technology is commercially available, and it's just the challenge of integrating it into a lobster vessel."
Imagine standing on the back of a vessel that doesn't have emissions. The benefits, beyond helping to reach our environment and climate goals, are just tremendous.
— Brent Dancey, Oceans North
Dancey said the first projects will be the most expensive, so the push will need support from governments.
"The federal government put forward an electric bus program, which is just tremendous," he said.
"So it has money for bus owners, it has access to low-interest loans, and it's made targets to reach for in terms of how many electric buses we need on the road by 2030. So we're looking for the same model for the fishing sector."
The Hybrid I gets plugged in at the shore. The diesel-electric hybrid vessel is heading to its new home in New Brunswick. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
The report also makes the economic case for making the switch to electric.
"Diesel is one of the biggest costs for fishing… To reduce that cost on a daily basis is actually going to pay for the vessel over the lifetime of the vessel," Dancey said.
"Other co-benefits are, imagine working in an environment that's completely silent. Imagine standing on the back of a vessel that doesn't have emissions. The benefits, beyond helping to reach our environment and climate goals, are just tremendous."