Can renewable energy be used for heavy industry?
Industry is the largest user of energy in Australia, with around two thirds of that energy used to produce heat for industrial and other processes. The heat is mostly produced by natural gas, as well as coal and other fuels. Industry’s temperature requirements range from below 100°C (e.g. for cooking, cleaning and drying) to over 1000°C (e.g. for use in metals and chemicals processing). The other third of industry’s energy use is electricity, which is used in a wide variety of applications.
Renewable energy technologies that are suitable for use in industry include:
- renewable electricity
- bioenergy (including biomass and biogas), which can be used as fuel in boilers and other equipment
- solar thermal, which absorbs heat from the sun to directly heat water or other fluids
- geothermal, which extracts heat from the ground to heat water or other fluids
- heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air, ground or water
- electrification technologies powered by renewable electricity, for example electric resistance heaters or electromagnetic technologies (infrared, induction, microwaves, radio frequency)
- hydrogen produced from renewable electricity
Renewable energy adoption by industry can also be supported with energy storage including batteries, thermal and material storage and technologies that enable greater flexibility and responsiveness of energy demand, such as digitalisation and enhanced controls.
Renewables for Australian industry
Renewable energy provides around 10 per cent of direct (non-electricity) energy use in Australian industry. About three-quarters of this is ‘bagasse’, which is sugarcane residue left over after the sugar has been removed. Bagasse is used in boilers to provide heat to the sugar processing plant and sometimes to simultaneously provide heat and electricity through a cogeneration plant.
Most of the remaining renewable energy used in Australian industry is in the form of wood or wood products (e.g. ‘“black liquor’”), which are mostly used in the pulp and paper industry.
While renewable technologies are available to meet most industry heating needs, these are not more widely deployed due to financial and non-financial barriers.
ARENA’s purpose is to accelerate Australia’s shift to affordable and reliable renewable energy. By connecting investment, knowledge and people to deliver energy innovation, we are helping to build the foundation of a renewable energy ecosystem in Australia.
The following blog posts explain some of the projects being supported by ARENA to further develop and bring down the cost of renewable energy for use by Australian industry:
ARENA shares knowledge, insights and data from our funded projects to help the renewable energy industry and other projects learn from each other’s experiences. Our projects capture high-quality quantitative and qualitative data and information, linked with the needs of the market, while respecting our recipients’ commercial and contractual rights.
Reports from our renewables for industry projects can be found in the ARENA Knowledge Bank.
A project is breaking new ground by testing whether energy-hungry metal production processes can be repowered with renewables.Read more