Close search

Paper mill takes out inaugural Clean Energy Integration award

We know that using energy more efficiently can help to manage demand sustainably and affordably. But what if we go one step further, and pair improvements to efficiency with with solar power, battery storage and renewable energy purchase contracts?

Doing more with less energy won’t just reduce costs – it also has potential to materially reduce the emissions from some of the largest energy users.

ARENA recognised the opportunity by making Improving Energy Productivity an official investment priority in 2017.

As part of this work, the agency was proud to sponsor the inaugural prize for Integrating Clean Energy at the Energy Efficiency Council’s National Energy Efficiency Awards.

Created to showcase projects that combine energy efficiency with renewable energy, the first Integrating Clean Energy prize was awarded to the Orora Group for its Botany recycled paper mill project.

Responding to a call by Orora CEO Nigel Garrard to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the Botany Mill undertook a radical transformation in 2012.

First opened in the 1920s, the mill is a large user of both electricity and gas. Despite a previous refurbishment and fitout with modern equipment, rising energy costs led the company to embark on the $20 million project.

As part of the 2012 refit, Orora installed a state-of-the-art machine able to annually produce 400,000 tonnes of packaging and industrial paper from recycled materials. Not only did the project improve energy productivity by more than 10 per cent, the mill has been transitioned to run entirely on renewable electricity, with renewable heat displacing a portion of the site’s gas use.

This has been achieved partly through construction of a biogas cogeneration plant, which captures methane produced through the process of treating the seven million litres of water used daily on site. Installing a variable speed drive on the paper machine alone cut consumption from the mill’s most electricity hungry process by 90 per cent, while also lifting production and lightening maintenance loads.

The B9 paper machine at Orora’s Botany mill. Image: Orora

As part of the project, Orora’s workforce was provided with opportunities to propose energy saving initiatives, achieving in excess of $150,000 in energy reductions annually from zero-cost measures.

After undertaking the work to eliminate energy waste, the company entered into a renewable power purchase agreement to supply 100 per cent of the site’s remaining electricity needs.


According to the International Energy Agency, greater efficiency will be needed in conjunction with a transition to renewables to meet global climate targets.

Ahead of December’s COP24 Climate Change Conference at Katowice in Poland, IEA analysts Kevin Lane and Armin Mayer argued that global growth is offsetting gains in energy efficiency, but this can be reversed with greater action on efficiency.

They say that even deploying only the cost-effective technologies available today would “allow the global economy to double by 2040 with only a marginal increase in energy demand.”

“Energy efficiency has been critical in decoupling economic growth from rising energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” they say in a recent article.

“Ultimately, developed and emerging economies will continue to strive for economic growth… precisely for this reason, energy efficiency will be absolutely indispensable for ensuring that these objectives are met while increases in global energy consumption are kept to a minimum,” they said.

Recycled paper at Orora’s mill. Image: Orora

ARENA CEO Darren Miller says the agency sees an opportunity to address both the supply and demand side of the energy equation as part of the renewable energy transition.

“ARENA is supporting large energy users to pair renewables with improvements to energy efficiency,” Mr Miller said.

“Supporting large energy users to improve their productivity will accelerate the uptake of renewables and also make the grid more responsive and reliable,” he said.

“Projects like Orora’s mill upgrades are win-win. These projects reduce the cost and scale of the renewable energy transition while delivering immediate benefits to businesses, consumers and the environment.”

Revolutionising the energy network, one LED light at a time

Could something as simple as switching to LED lighting help to drive the transition to renewables?

Sydney electricity distributor Ausgrid says it can, receiving $1 million from ARENA to work with households and businesses to become more energy efficient and install solar panels.

ARENA’s funding will expand the Power2U program to 15 suburbs across Sydney, including Bankstown, Alexandria, Glebe and Pyrmont. The City of Sydney is chipping in an additional $750,000, bringing the project’s total budget to $3.5 million.

The project falls under ARENA’s work to improve energy productivity – an investment priority that aims to support projects that manage demand as the transition to renewables accelerates.

Targeting people in the community that have been slow to adopt renewables and are hard to reach, the program aims to reduce the need to replace ageing electricity infrastructure. This will be achieved by lowering demand on the grid, with a particular focus on permanently curbing energy use during the day.

What kind of impact can efficient devices and LED lights have, in conjunction with rooftop solar panels?

Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross says Power2U will help to reduce energy use, while making the grid more sustainable and providing hip pocket relief.

“Our network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers due to the high number of apartments and businesses in our footprint,” Gross said.

“This project could realise a solution that would possibly increase the number of solar installations on apartment buildings and leased commercial properties.”

Ausgrid will install rooftop solar panels as part of the Power2U program

For a growing country like Australia, there are a spectrum of opportunities to make better use of the energy we generate. Global energy transition experts the International Energy Agency say the importance of improving efficiency cannot be underestimated – they believe it will be a vital element of the transition to renewables, if we have any hope of meeting global emission reduction targets.

The numbers show how important it will be to do more with less across the energy network. Data from Australia’s Bureau of Statistics shows that our population has grown by 3.75 million people in the last decade, and we are the only country in the developed world to have enjoyed uninterrupted economic growth for 27 consecutive years.

Despite the rising population and increased reliance on digital technology, Australia’s energy demand has been in decline since 2009.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s March forecast predicts that demand is likely to remain relatively flat for the next twenty years. Despite our growing population, AEMO expect that residential demand will actually fall, thanks largely to new energy efficient appliances and rooftop solar.

The story is similar with energy demand from business. AEMO predict this will also remain flat, partly because of advances in energy efficiency, but also due to weakening demand for energy from the manufacturing sector.

How does this help with the transition to renewables? Reducing demand by enhancing productively will help to make the switch an energy system underpinned by renewables cheaper, easier and faster. In practice, using energy more efficiently could allow investments in expensive and unnecessary infrastructure to be delayed, or avoided altogether. Using energy more wisely could reduce peaks in demand, smoothing usage across the day.

One home shifting to efficient light globes won’t make a noticeable difference at a network scale, but everybody working together across a city or state can put a dent in demand, particularly when efficiency measures are partnered with solar panels. Reductions in demand for grid electricity as a result of the growth of rooftop solar are already apparent, according to AEMO.


ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the scheme will show the potential for efficiency technology to be combined with renewables to reduce energy costs and reduce load on network infrastructure.

“The project will provide Ausgrid and other distribution network service providers around Australia greater confidence in the ability of renewable and efficiency solutions to offset network expenditure, which has traditionally been very difficult to address with demand management.

“Ausgrid’s program will encourage greater uptake of low emission technologies and solutions, reduce energy costs for participating consumers and reduce demand on Sydney’s grid,” he said.

Business Renewables Centre Australia

Cities Power Partnership