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Electrification of industry is the way to carbon neutrality

Author Teemu Turunen
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The electrification of industry is an important element in reducing greenhouse emissions, and the role of heat pumps is central in this development. It is particularly important to look at things from a broader perspective and utilize waste heat. In the best case scenario, several operators can benefit from the solution. However, as the processes become more complicated, the importance of their control must be remembered.

 

Electricity consumption in Finnish industry is expected to grow significantly. According to Fingrid’s extreme scenario, it will even double by 2030. Of course, more moderate developments have been outlined, and growth also depends on the industrial sector.

The forecasts do not come as a surprise as the electrification of industry plays an important role in reducing greenhouse emissions. Another driving force of electrification, security of supply, has come to the fore since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. There are already large-scale projects under way, such as SSAB’s HYBRIT project, which represents electrification on a larger scale.

At its simplest, an old solution is replaced with an electric one

Electrification refers to a situation where, for example, a process equipment that uses fossil fuel is replaced with an electric solution: for example, a gas-powered forklift is replaced with an electric forklift or a regular boiler with an electric boiler. Although this may sound like an easy solution, it is always important to anticipate the effects of the change on the process. For example, making bread is different with electric and gas ovens.

Electrification can also be implemented indirectly. In this case, electricity is used to produce, for example, hydrogen or synthetic fuels. The hydrogen economy is rising fast, although it will probably take the next decade before it has an impact on our entire energy system.

Heat pumps play a key role in the electrification of industry

An element of energy efficiency comes into play in the world of heat pumps. The benefit is often realized by taking into account wider entities, and eventually the whole process. It is essential that the waste heat can be utilized.

The possibilities of pumps also include that cooling and heating can be done with the same system and the benefits can be distributed to several parties. In this case, there is a move toward sector integration where, for example, there is an industry player at one end and an energy company at the other – and both benefit.

The importance of controlling processes increases

Profitability is important in industry, and that is why a lot of projects are needed: what works in theory is not always financially viable. However, the development of technology opens up new possibilities as higher temperatures can be reached with heat pumps. In the future, the role of process control will also be emphasized when moving toward more complex systems.

However, energy cannot be discussed without mentioning politics. At the moment, it is difficult to predict the price of energy when both production and the market are fluctuating. Great things can still be achieved if one keeps the big picture in mind: the subject should always be approached as a whole.

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Teemu Turunen

Phil. Lic. (Env. Science)

Teemu Turunen has extensive experience in energy and process consulting in several industries. He currently works as Business Development Director in the energy and process business area. His focus is to lead the development of sustainable solutions for future needs.

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