ARENA-backed report shows potential for renewable alternatives to gas in industrial applications

A new report has outlined the renewable energy alternatives available to Australia’s small to medium industrial sector, to help cut its ties with an increasingly costly and uncertain domestic gas market.

The ARENA-backed report – a summary of analysis by IT Power in conjunction with Pitt&Sherry and the Institute for Sustainable Futures –  says replacing gas with renewable energy solutions can be economic, or close to economic, across all mass markets, as well as some large user industry sectors.

“Uncertainty around continuing availability and likely cost of natural gas for local industrial use is of increasing concern in Australia,” the report says, with domestic prices predicted to increase to levels determined by international prices. Australia’s industrial users account for nearly half of domestic demand for gas, which they use for process heat.

The smaller ‘mass market’ industrial users, food and beverage related sectors are the largest in usage and have the greatest demand for heat below 150°C.

Future energy price volatility

For businesses like these, the report outlines a range of renewable energy solutions that are established, technically feasible and suitable for substitution for most gas applications.

These include bioenergy and solar thermal, hot sedimentary aquifer geothermal and heat pumps. An ‘off the shelf’ renewable alternative can heat water/steam for process heat while operational risk is minimised by maintaining a gas-fired capability as back-up, the report says.

“Technically, a renewable energy solution can be engineered for every single current use of gas by industry,” the report says. “However, there is a subset of solutions that are lower in technical risk and cost, and are both proven and commercially available.“Those that are still in the pilot or even R&D phase (for example solutions for very high temperatures or for chemical feedstocks) bring higher risk and cost,” it says.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd