Energy innovation can save heavy industry: Schneider Electric
Summary: Australia’s energy-intensive industry could become globally competitive again using new, disruptive technology and efficiency measures, French energy giant Schneider Electric says.....
Schneider’s Australia-New Zealand managing director, Gareth O’Reilly, says the nation’s energy network is wasteful and should be changed to a less centralised model with a greater focus on efficiency measures.
But this does not mean the end for heavy industrial users, such as aluminium and steel plants.
“These are large, energy-intensive customers — 20 per cent energy saved, which is possible, has a big impact and can make these industries competitive again,” Mr O’Reilly told The Australian.
“Those types of businesses are our customers and they are asking for different answers and ways to solve this, through better technology and microgrids, as well as balanced energy supply.”
Schneider is the biggest provider of advice on power to Australian commercial users.
The comments come as British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta defies convention here and in other developed countries by buying up heavy industrial plants.
His firm Liberty House has bought the Whyalla steelworks, with a plan to power it using clean energy. Mr Gupta has also expressed interest in doing the same for aluminium plants, which many analysts believe have a limited future in Australia.
Mr O’Reilly said Schneider was working with China’s Baosteel, the world’s biggest steelmaker, on plans to make its plants more efficient, as China cracks down on pollution.
Paris-based Schneider, with a market value of $65 billion and 170,000 employees worldwide, is one of the biggest players in global energy management. It is holding its annual Innovation Summit in Sydney today.
Mr O’Reilly says the company backs plans for a national energy guarantee.
“No policy is ever going to be perfect,” he said.
“We support the NEG, because the system we have, which has served us so well, is not the answer for tomorrow — the current centralised system is not working.
“We have to design a new platform that allows for market-driven technologies that balance the energy trilemma. We believe the current policy on the table allows that.”
Mr O’Reilly believes the NEG, and the recent surge in wind and solar power brought about by the renewable energy target, would bring prices down.
But he stressed other factors, such as international coal and gas prices, made it hard to predict. Energy systems change is sweeping across major global power centres faster than expected.
“The shift to distributive generation is happening so fast,” Mr O’Reilly said.
“In the US, embedded generation is rapidly moving, we’re seeing massive scale renewable penetration to try and meet the trilemma of sustainability, reliability and affordability. And we’re seeing that in India, China and Europe too.”