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5 points on energy efficiency and industrial by-processes

March 31, 2020
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Nevel article 2020 – Industrial companies insights on energy efficiency and industrial by-processes.

Industrial companies in Sweden seeking to improve resource efficiency

Use of renewable energy and industrial by-products seen as potential improvement areas.

Nevel, an advanced industrial and municipal infrastructure solutions provider, has conducted a qualitative study on the needs of industrial companies in Sweden. The study focuses on energy use, including steam and heat, as well as utilisation of industrial by-products, and is based on 21 in-depth interviews with experts and managers in various industries including forestry, pulp and paper, food and chemicals. The study was conducted by the independent research company Origo Group in Sweden. The key findings about the concerns of industrial customers in Sweden can be summarised as follows:

1. Ensuring better use of excess heat

Several industrial companies are already using excess heat to some degree, mainly for their own industrial processes, but it is still not being fully utilised. Companies are moving towards creating circular economies that utilise industrial and municipal sidestreams, but this process is ongoing. Companies expect better integration between industrial and municipal processes in order to use excess heat for the good of society. The challenges include how to transfer excess heat to other purposes without incurring costs, the storing of excess heat, and a lack of relevant technologies. One of the respondents summarised the situation as follows: ”We have a lot of excess heat in the form of steam. It would be optimal to use it effectively instead of just releasing it.”

2. Choosing among various energy sources

For industrial companies, there is a big concern about which energy sources to utilise and invest in. Decision makers are worried about the availability of renewable energy sources for providing reliable and controlled heat. Biogas is of great interest, but investing in the systems and technologies needed to use it is a question mark – how long will it be available until something else replaces it? And even if access to renewable energy is not a problem, transporting it may be. Another big question is that if a company invests in renewable energy, will their business remain profitable? According to one of the interviewees, “It is difficult to know where to start and to be able to demonstrate if the change will bring profits along with a better environmental reputation and economy.”

3. Improving energy efficiency through processes optimisation

Many companies are already improving energy efficiency by optimising their processes; instead of changing the energy source they use, some see optimisation as the key to reducing energy use. Some companies consider optimisation to be an internal task, while many others are looking for outside help since energy efficiency is not among their core competences. Energy efficiency is also seen as a must-have, continuous process. For many, pressure comes from customers, employees and owners. Today, many people are not ready to pay a premium for a sustainable choice, but many decision makers think this will change in 10-15 years. According to one respondent, “We are currently looking into reducing energy use. Often the discussions are about the energy source, but the amount of energy is also one part of the problem.”

4. Keeping up with changes in the regulatory environment

Cooperation with municipalities, government and politicians seems to be a hot topic. Taxes, governmental support, regulations and allowances for buying emission rights are areas where decision makers see a need for improvement. Companies must follow standards like ISO and environmental regulations. Responding to tightening standards creates costs and requires the competence to change business processes accordingly. “We do not want to be mean, but we want to save our environment and not have the customer pay for it at the end,” says one of the interviewees.

5. Ensuring the right competences for the transformation

Experts and managers in industrial companies see that the transformation towards a CO2-neutral society and the changing of business processes requires new competences. Although many companies have acquired knowledge and experts internally, many others still feel that energy efficiency and handling of industrial by-products are not part of their core competence. Partners who understand customers’ businesses and who are knowledgeable in the field of energy processes are welcome. Companies are looking for guidance towards creating circular economies and improving cost efficiency as well as insights into changing laws and regulations. “It´s hard to make big investments and be resource efficient at the same time,” says one expert.

Industrial sidestreams such as energy, water, cooling, heat and waste provide opportunities to enhance economies of scale both within and between sectors. – Teemu Klingberg, Nevel.

Teemu Klingberg, Sales Director at Nevel, confirms that the above insights match his own experience: “Industrial sidestreams such as energy, water, cooling, heat and waste provide opportunities to enhance economies of scale both within and between sectors – for example between industries and municipalities – and realise synergies. Combining modern technology with automation and machine learning opens up even more opportunities. Many companies are already looking into the opportunities. A smart working model is needed to progress in a relevant order from one stage to another.”

Further information:

Teemu Klingberg, Industrial infrastructure, Nevel, +358 50 317 14 48
Hanna Viita, Marketing & Communication, Nevel, +358 40 167 17 55

Nevel contact information