How is Finning using energy management for carbon reduction?

Kelly Cole, GM Finning UK & Ireland, shares how microgrids, effective energy storage & decentralised systems support carbon neutrality & net zero

Kelly Cole started her career as an engineering apprentice for GE Aviation in 1997, before progressing through roles in customer service and operations into management. While at GE Aviation, Cole achieved a first-class degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wales, as well as an MBA from Cardiff University.

Early in her career, Cole developed a wealth of hands-on engineering and technical experience, including building and stripping engines and leading a manufacturing cell for printed circuit boards for flight power tiles and displays. Her next roles involved managing relationships with major airlines and growing GE Aviation’s service business in multiple markets.

Cole’s final role at GE Aviation was leading the technical field service team, working with engineers across leading airlines to manage the fleet in service, focused on the fleet stability and reliability. Some key achievements include growing the Africa services market share of narrow body engines from the region with the lowest exclusive coverage, to the highest, while driving services growth in Europe for the very mature engine market.

Since 2021, she has headed up the energy team as General Manager for Electric Power at Finning UK & Ireland. Finning UK & Ireland is part of Finning International – the world’s largest dealer of Cat® machines, engines, equipment, and power solutions.

In her role, Cole will build on the success of the talented team there, as well as further develop the company’s customer-centric approach, to help Finning partner with customers to build and power a better world.

With 20 years of experience in highly technical industries, Cole has developed a passion for renewable energy — particularly the rapid evolution of technology that is making renewable solutions not only more technically advanced but also increasingly commercially viable.

 

What role do microgrids and decentralised systems have in the energy transition?

Microgrids and decentralised systems are instrumental in the energy transition. As we shift towards renewable and lower-carbon solutions like solar and wind energy, which inherently are more variable than traditional power sources, microgrids enable us to maintain the balance of integrating these sources without compromising reliability. Essentially, microgrids facilitate a smoother transition by helping us streamline the incorporation of new energy sources, ensuring not only reliability but also cost efficiency for our customers.

 

How can microgrids and decentralised systems support carbon neutrality whilst ensuring reliable energy supply?

Microgrids play a significant role in achieving carbon neutrality without sacrificing a reliable energy supply. They've been integral to projects where the primary aim is to power customer facilities efficiently while also emphasising energy conservation. For example, the Cat Master Micro Controller enhances system efficiency, reportedly doubling the fuel savings compared to third-party controllers. Additionally, Cat Connect provides comprehensive real-time insights into the microgrid's performance, ensuring optimal operation.

 

By integrating components like solar power, gensets, controls, remote monitoring, and energy storage, the microgrid system can be tailored to meet specific customer demands, enhancing resilience and response, while optimising both input and output to reduce carbon emissions significantly.

 

What role does storage have in promoting a sustainable, efficient, and reliable energy solution?

Storage is a critical component in fostering sustainable, efficient, and reliable energy solutions. It enables the harnessing of excess solar energy for use during less sunny periods, helps balance demand during peak times, and provides a buffer against intermittent production. In fact, global energy storage capacity is expected to grow exponentially, with forecasts indicating a rise to 741 gigawatt-hours by 2030. By using low-carbon power sources to recharge these storage units, such as solar energy, we can further decrease the carbon footprint of our overall energy solutions.

 

What does the future of energy look like?

The future of energy — especially for companies like Finning — is incredibly exciting, albeit challenging. The primary hurdle lies in creating low-carbon energy solutions that are not only environmentally friendly but also financially sound and technically robust. Green hydrogen exemplifies this, as reducing its production cost to the levels of blue or even grey hydrogen is crucial for its role in future energy mixes.

 

Currently at Finning, all our diesel generators can operate on HVO, our gas generators can handle a 25% hydrogen blend, and we even have a demonstrator running on 100% hydrogen. With more ground-breaking technology underway, such as Cat’s development of hydrogen-fuelled engines and power generators, we're poised to meet our customers' evolving needs while actively contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

What tips do you have for companies looking to switch to renewable energy sources?

 

For companies considering a transition to renewable energy sources, it's vital to fully understand your current and future energy needs. Ensure the system you adopt is scalable and flexible, and that your supplier offers comprehensive operational support. It's also crucial to balance CAPEX and OPEX costs when making this transition. Additionally, consider options for exporting surplus power back to the grid, especially in scenarios where you might generate excess solar power during periods of low demand.

 

With global renewable capacity additions set to soar by 107 GW – the largest absolute increase ever – to more than 440 GW by the end of this year, it's evident that the transition isn't just feasible but also economically prudent. Additionally, various government incentives and schemes worldwide can help offset initial transition costs, making the switch more attractive financially.

 

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