Is there an either or, or do we need both?
In media, and among policy makers, there is typically a tendency to look for a “quick fix”, the one single solution to a problem. When it comes to climate action, and reducing emissions as part of the work towards slowing down global climate change, there is no “quick fix”. As stated by Svante Axelsson, head of Sweden’s initiative “Fossilfritt Sverige” (Fossil Free Sweden), we need all solutions, at the same time, preferably today.
When it comes to sustainable boating and the marine sector in general, electrification will certainly be a part of the solution, but it will inevitably come slower than for road traffic. Why inevitably? Well, simply because many factors point in that direction. From financials (boats are expensive, and not used as frequently and as much as cars, meaning investing in electric propulsion is hard to justify from a financial perspective), accessibility (charging stations are virtually non-existent), technology (electric boats are far from mainstream, like X-Shore and Candela, and very expensive) to safety (the implications of running of out of energy for propulsion are potentially life threatening on a boat, unlike on the road). These factors all imply that electrification will not have the same exponential development as for road traffic.
In order for us to be able to significantly reduce marine emissions, and work towards sustainable boating, we will need to convert a substantial part of current boats to biofuels (e.g HVO100, like Neste MY, biodiesel blends and biomethanol) or even electrofuels such as e-methanol, for a foreseeable future (2030, as a minimum, if not all the way towards Sweden’s target of being fossil free by 2045). Electrification of road traffic, as well as shift towards e.g. geothermal energy for heating, will free up significant volumes of biomass, that can be used to convert “hard electrified” (short and medium term) industries and vechicles, like boating and aviation, to climate neutral biofuels.