48 (143) 2021

Green Transformation

Polish industry on its way to zero emission

By Dr Ryszard Stefański, director, Business Development Department, EWE Polska sp. z o.o.
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Understanding and accepting the need to counteract the planet's overheating has become common in developed countries in recent years. Societies are putting more and more pressure on the authorities and on companies offering final products to reduce CO2 emissions. This action is forcing a green transformation among producers and their suppliers who want to be active in the markets across the Global North, regardless of their national policy. The Paris Agreement and the programmes of the EU, the US and China clearly indicate the direction of activities for the next 30 years: the zero-emission world economy (net-zero) and the circular economy.

The previous global effort against the destruction of the ozone layer, initiated by Montreal Protocol of 1987, was finally successful. The ozone layer is gradually rebuilding. This allows us to be optimistic about efforts in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The success of Green Transformation depends to a large extent on the scale and schedule of implemented activities. The issues that give the best ratio of effects to inputs (‘low hanging fruit’) should be dealt first. In our opinion, the energy transformation of manufacturing industry is a priority. Firstly, tangible environmental effects can be achieved here quickly, and secondly, the companies that go through this process will strengthen their competitive position on the most attractive Global North markets. The final recipient – consumer and producer alike – pays increasing attention to ecological aspects in the product manufacturing process.

EWE, like other green-oriented energy companies, co-operates with industrial companies to assist them on their way to zero emissions. Each producer uses different types of energy fuel, so the approach must be individual and unique. The first thing is to eliminate the combustion of coal and replace it with renewable energy or gas.

In the next step, it is desirable to reduce the purchase of electricity from the electrical grid, burdened with a high carbon footprint, and replace it with locally sourced renewable energy. An intermediate solution between the energy produced from conventional sources and renewable energy is the use of high-efficiency gas co-generation.

It allows for consumption of primary energy to be reduced by about 60% in relation to the purchase of the conventional electricity from the grid, and generation of the heat from coal. In the longer term, all possible processes should be electrified and only electricity from renewable sources should be used.

In processes where such electricity cannot be used – the power source should be changed to gas fuel.

Gas fuels will be either of organic origin (biomethane) or mixed with ‘green’ hydrogen – obtained from electrolysis using temporary surplus energy from renewable energy sources (RES). Over the next several decades, CO2 emissions from green gas combustion in industrial installations will be captured and reused to produce methane from CO2 and green hydrogen.

Setting an industrial enterprise on its zero-emission way requires proper preparation. It can be started with a professionally performed audit, defining energy flows in the plant and possible investments increasing energy efficiency. This allows businesses to plan a long-term strategy that eliminates greenhouse gases emission from production processes, successively replacing high-emission sources by the low-emission and ultimately zero-emission ones.

Switching from coal to gas gives good and quick ecological effects. In such a case, CO2 emissions are halved and dust emissions reduced 150 times. The latter is particularly important in Poland, where smog is one of the most troublesome problems that threatens the life and health of residents. The key to the success of the green transformation in Poland will be the fastest possible transition of industrial enterprises to the use of local renewable energy.

Technological progress and rising prices of the energy in Poland are systematically improving the market conditions for RES. For example, the cost of building of a solar farm has fallen four-fold in just 10 years. At present, it is possible to generate electricity locally from the sun or wind, which is cheaper than buying it from the distribution grid, bearing the costs of energy purchase, distribution fees and additional charges imposed on energy distribution, such as power fees.

Due to the lack of fuel costs and predictable service costs, electricity from RES provides a stable cost of energy production in a long-term perspective. If we build our own RES, we know the financial outlays for the investment and operation as well as the average annual production, and thus, assuming a specific time frame, we are able to secure the volume of the electrical energy at a cost known by us for up to 20 years.

Industrial companies can independently generate electricity from renewable sources for their own needs. For them, however, this means going beyond their core business, which may discourage some from taking up such activities. Another solution is to establish cooperation with an energy company that builds and operates a renewable energy source in the area or near the customer's production facility, and can supply it with electricity on a contractual basis stipulated in an on-site power purchase agreement (PPA).

Green energy can be produced locally as well as virtually on the basis of off-site PPA contracts. This solution is recommended to customers who cannot generate electricity from RES locally. This solution also has a positive effect on the climate, although it is less attractive for business as it does not eliminate distribution fees and additional fees imposed on the distribution of energy.

Unlike local electricity generation, it does not eliminate network losses resulting from the transmission of electricity. In the case of the off-site model, it is possible to contract a large volume of energy from wind farms or photovoltaic installations, and even purchase it from several producers.

To produce the electricity from your own RES, you need to gather a number of participants in the process: someone has to finance it, someone has to build it and connect it to the grid; someone else has to operate the installation. Currently, most renewable energy sources work in a discontinuous way – when there is no inflow of solar radiation or no wind, the energy is not produced. At this point, an additional participant is needed, someone who will balance the energy so that it is supplied to the customer continuously and at a convenient price. The optimal solution is when all of the above activities are provided by the one entity – an energy company with green DNA.

EWE advises its clients how to reduce their carbon footprint and operating costs by investing in their own renewable energy sources. It offers a selection of installations, economic analysis and the cooperation in the implementation of the investment. EWE is also looking into offering energy supplies to customers on a PPA-formula basis.

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