ARENA selects manufacturing sites for process heat alternatives trial

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will investigate opportunities for the utilisation of renewables in process heating for manufacturing.

ARENA will support the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) with $460,500 in funding to deliver the $900,500 project to replace fossil fuelled heat with heat generated from renewable power sources.

Currently, process heating accounts for the largest share of onsite energy use in Australian manufacturing.

To alter the source of energy in these processes, A2EP has selected ten sites for pre-feasibility studies, five of these sites will progress to a full feasibility study.

Instead of using fossil fuels, the selected businesses will utilise heat pumps powered by renewable electricity, as well as biomass or biogas and storage options. While these technologies are commercially available, they are not yet widely used because of the cost of integrating a change in energy source in Australia.

Once feasibility studies have been carried out, the sites will be eligible for ARENA grant funding to permanently implement the renewable technologies.

Three sites have already been selected for full feasibility, McCain in Ballarat, Simplot in Devonport, and Lion in Adelaide.

According to A2EP CEO, Jonathan Jutsen, the technologies being trialled in this process are often used overseas but are yet to be adopted locally.

“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,” he said.

With the price of natural gas, a common energy source for industrial heat, having risen to three times its historical level in Australia, and likely to remain there, energy alternatives are increasingly attractive, highlighted ARENA CEO, Darren Miller.

“There is 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,” said Miller.

On September 11, ARENA released its Investment Plan, which set out three new priority areas, one of which being to support industry to reduce emissions. The current project with A2EP will be part of this push.