Sustainable supply security

Countries across the world have recognised the need for decarbonisation, and businesses are being asked to play their part by reducing their carbon footprint

In the UK, industrial companies are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and decarbonising their operations is critical to achieving national carbon neutrality targets. Many industrial companies are currently striving for a reliable, more sustainable energy supply, but concerns about ensuring security of this supply, are very real and are a high priority in strategy considerations. As a result, the growing interest in green steam, heat, and power solutions, beyond the use of natural gas, is now driven by both requirements – sustainability and reliability.

Working with you to implement sustainable energy supply solutions

Given the current market situation, companies are faced with the challenge of how to successfully implement solutions for a more sustainable energy supply that is less dependent on fossil fuels. Concerns about limited resources and little experience with new technologies are compounded by the issue of regulatory uncertainty. That’s when working with an expert partner can be beneficial. To identify opportunities it makes sense to involve potential partners at an early stage, so that you can work together on joint solutions, tailored to your individual requirements. In many cases, a combination of different technologies will be needed to cover the trilemma of availability, sustainability, and economic efficiency.

One of the most significant challenges in decarbonising industrial operations is the need for low carbon steam, heat, and power.

The following technologies and fuels are the current main options for industrial companies to consider:

biomass CHPs and boilers provide a sustainable source of energy by using wood pellets instead of fossil fuels.

wind turbines and solar collectors generate renewable energy that can be used to power industrial operations.

blue and green hydrogen solutions provide an alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based processes.

carbon capture and storage solutions that can capture and store carbon emissions from industrial operations, can help industrial operations to achieve carbon neutrality.

Tailor-made decarbonisation

Companies of all sizes in all industries want their energy supply and operations to be sustainable. To achieve carbon neutrality, tailor-made solutions for companies and their industrial processes are required. However, for many businesses this is not their core competence. Against this background, companies are actively seeking advice and support in developing and implementing solutions. This is where the experience as an energy company with expertise in the reliable provision of energy as well as running our own power plant operations, can be of great benefit. Our approach at Uniper is to work closely with industry on their decarbonisation journey. We can help companies to develop and implement their own decarbonisation strategy by using our extensive expertise in this area.

It couldn’t be clearer that companies will also need to have an energy strategy to kick-start their decarbonisation journey. To ensure a secure and reliable supply of energy for the future, alternatives to natural gas, storage, and other flexible solutions must be explored alongside renewable energy solutions. This should be based on the decarbonisation ambitions, production requirements and site-specific conditions of the business. This is because for an electricity, heat or steam supply, the respective sustainability targets and industrial application limit the scope for technologies; for example, for high-temperature steam demand, there are limited fuel options, with biomass one of the answers.

Biomass can be a good option if your industrial process already generates waste biomass as a by-product that could be used to generate electricity/steam, for example in the Pulp and Paper or Food and Beverages industries. Wind turbines and solar collectors can be considered the “traditional” renewables that would fit perfectly for onsite generation whenever there is enough space, and you have processes that do not require a continuous 24/7 production of electricity. In those situations, batteries would also be needed to store renewable power making the whole solution less economically attractive. Also, it would not be enough power for high-temperature steam production, so a combination of options, with a grid connection, would still be needed.

Another possibility could be highly efficient, gas-fired, hydrogen ready or biomass combined heat and power plants which generate heat and electricity simultaneously. These plants can achieve efficiencies of up to 90 percent and they are particularly suitable for supplementing a company’s own energy supply and effectively reducing carbon emissions.

Process requirements strongly determine the decarbonisation pathway and the technologies that can be used, with many still in their infancy. For example, the use of hydrogen as an industrial energy supply, is being explored and could come into play more in the long term.

Here in the UK, carbon capture and storage (CCS) will also play an instrumental role in driving decarbonisation forward. Some of the main industrial clusters already have plans to develop CO2 transport and storage facilities. Therefore, CCS could be an attractive option for industries located near these projects.

However, the key factor in all these considerations and across different sustainable fuels and technologies, is ultimately the security of supply needed for the production processes, as well as the cost to implement it.

It is clear that individual roadmaps must be worked out, to navigate the many different options available and match them to the individual needs of each business. Here it makes sense to draw on the expert knowledge of energy companies such as Uniper. However, it is important to build a partnership based on transparency and openness, because customised, complex solutions are required, and this can only be achieved working in partnership with an expert who fully understands the process, risks, and issues. All parties involved must establish a joint working structure as project partners, within which decision-making requirements, schedules, costs as well as risks can be discussed openly and with short escalation paths.

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