Manufacturing News

Industry slow to use green energy

THE uptake of green energy sources in the residential sector continues to show significant growth, but uptake within industry remains low.

One of the more obvious ways to utilise renewable energy is through the purchase of GreenPower from a supplier accredited under the National GreenPower Accreditation Program.

According to suppliers, more than half a million customers now subscribe to GreenPower. Of the total, 478,541 were residential customers and 21,480 were commercial customers.

In addition to promotion of GreenPower, various government regulations and incentives exist to encourage the production of green energy.

For example, the Federal Government recently flagged a scheme to support the design and installation of solar systems on commercial and industrial buildings under the Photovoltaic Rebate Program.

Sustainability Victoria’s Vikas Ahuja said that although Victoria has some 6,000 commercial GreenPower customers, many enterprises are sitting on their own renewable energy resources, but are not being exploited.

“At the level of the individual enterprise there is a need to encourage the installation of photovoltaic and wind technology, with the excess energy generated fed into the electricity grid.

“I believe wind power can be successfully exploited within manufacturing industry to offset an enterprises’ own electricity consumption, especially in regional areas,” Ahuja told Manufacturers Monthly.

“Also, a huge opportunity exists within manufacturing industry for on-site production of green energy through cogeneration installations, particularly in Victoria which has abundant resources of natural gas.”

Ric Brazzale, executive director of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, says there is no technical reason why photovoltaic installations should not be widespread on factory roofs in Australia.

“Such installations are common in countries where government incentives exist, such as Japan and Germany.

“Cogeneration is another green energy source that is under-utilised. It has comparatively low emissions and, in industries such as paper manufacturing and food processing, the waste heat generated from gas turbines can be used to create steam for use in manufacturing processes,” Brazzale told Manufacturers Monthly.

Nigel Morris from solar panels manufacturer BP Solar points to the large expanses of factory roof space in Australia and says incentives need to be provided to encourage the installation of photovoltaic power systems and solar hot water systems.

“We have taken action to lead by example, and have installed solar panels on the shade awnings at our Sydney factory, resulting in energy savings of 10%. Green energy is also used in our manufacturing processes.

“In addition, solar panels are also utilised as forecourt awnings at 32 of our service stations and this has led to energy savings of 10-20%,” Morris told Manufacturers Monthly.

“The output of solar systems is generally a good match to the cost of electricity when on a time-of-use basis, and a big benefit of solar is that its output is highest in the middle of summer when refrigeration and air conditioning systems are at peak usage,” Morris said.

Susan Neill, business development manager at Conergy, which manufactures energy systems, says not a lot is being done by individual companies in relation to replacement of conventional power sources.

“Power in Australia is too cheap and there are no real incentives, especially for people building new factories, to change over to alternative power sources.

“Nevertheless, we are slowly seeing some of the more strategic thinking companies looking into the future and realising that long term investment strategies in power infrastructure means investigating renewable energy options, and being flexible and innovative in the approach,” Neill said.

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