ARENA investigates use of renewables in industrial process heating

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is looking to help manufacturers reduce emissions and increase the use of renewables in process heating. The Agency has allocated $460,500 in funding to the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) to test commercially available technologies not widely used in Australia that have significant potential to optimise the application of process heat in manufacturing.

With process heating accounting for the largest share of onsite energy use in Australian manufacturing, ARENA finds low temperature processes offer the greatest opportunity for displacing fossil fueled heat with renewably powered alternatives. Applications considered include electrification with a focus on heat pumps powered by renewable electricity and direct renewable heating options including biomass / biogas and associated storage.

The funding will underpin the $900,500 project led by A2EP, which has already undertaken ten pre-feasibility studies at sites across Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Five of these sites will be chosen to progress to a full feasibility study. Thus far, three businesses confirmed for full feasibility include: food manufacturers McCain in Victoria and Simplot in Tasmania, and brewer Lion in South Australia.

A full feasibility study and business case for all five sites will be complete by the end of 2019. If proven to be feasible, the projects will be eligible to apply for further ARENA grant funding to implement the renewable alternatives for energy generation.

“A2EP’s project aligns with what ARENA is aiming to achieve through its new investment priority in helping industry to reduce emissions by supplying case studies which can be replicated more widely,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.

While a number of manufacturers have already signed on to reduce their carbon footprint and increase the use of renewables by installing onsite solar PV or by means of renewables power purchase agreements, ARENA believes there is still significant potential to increase the application of renewable energy for process heating in manufacturing.

“By switching to renewable energy technologies, industries such as food and beverage processing can significantly reduce their reliance on traditional forms of energy and save money on their operating costs, thereby encouraging more companies to adopt this approach,” Miller added.

The switch to renewables would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also translate into savings for industrial operations. According to A2EP CEO Jonathan Jutsen, Australia lags behind a number of other economies which have already recognized this potential.

“Australia lags behind other economies in deployment of process heat technologies that are innovative but proven. There is great potential to be smarter about process heat. We waste a great deal of energy and we don’t take advantage of cost-effective renewables. There are literally thousands of businesses that could benefit from these ideas,” Jutsen said.
“With the support of ARENA, this feasibility work will identify opportunities for manufacturing businesses across Australia to transition to cost-effective renewable energy solutions tailored to their businesses that will reduce their emissions and energy costs,” he added.