Cutting the coal
The United Kingdom, birthplace of the industrial revolution, has been reliant on coal for centuries. However, in recent years advances in renewable energy technology has increased its adoption and led to a reduction in coal use. In the second half of May 2019, for the first time since the industrial revolution, the UK enjoyed a record-breaking two weeks without burning any coal at all. The question is, what can be done to sustain this long term? Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at automation equipment supplier EU Automation, discusses what manufacturers can do to help.
In April 2019, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) announced it will be able to fully operate Great Britain’s electricity system with zero carbon by 2025. Achieving this target will be dependent on integrating new technology across the system, such as onshore wind and domestic solar panels to increase the amount of renewable energy generated. Another tactic is to increase demand-side participation, where smart systems are used to manage and control the system in real time. To make the target a little easier, businesses can reduce their power usage.
Reducing demand from electric motors
The average fixed speed electric motor has two settings, on and off. This is because the motor is driven by electricity at a set frequency, meaning the only way to adjust the speed is with a brake, be that mechanical or electrical. As a result, motors waste a lot of energy. Considering that about a quarter of electricity produced worldwide is used to drive industrial electric motors, even a small increase in efficiency promises tangible benefits. One option to change this is a variable speed drive (VSD), which adjusts the speed of a motor by varying the power supplied dependent on the speed required.
If maintenance is not done proactively, manufacturers may find their equipment running at low efficiency. In heat-sensitive industries such as baking or metalworking, the oven or furnace would then take additional energy to heat, increasing energy usage. By collecting and analysing data from sensors on equipment in a facility, manufacturers can predict when parts will fail and plan maintenance to minimise disruption.
Recently there’s been quite an emphasis placed on single-use plastics, their effect on the oceans and what can be done to combat the issue. Admittedly, an electric motor is unlikely to be discovered bobbing around the Pacific, but the concepts of reuse, recycling and the circular economy can happily be applied to industrial settings. Just like the plastic bottle, if we can reuse refurbished parts then all the energy and materials needed to manufacture a new part can be saved.
Why splash out on purchasing the latest factory-fresh model if a previous configuration does the job just as well? It seems like an obvious question to ask, but unless you’re organised it can be difficult to get hold of the right part. With a little bit of groundwork and a relationship with a reliable automation equipment supplier, you can spot where using refurbished or obsolete parts can benefit both you and the planet.
There is a lot of work to do before the UK becomes permanently coal-free. To do their bit, manufacturers can take steps to relieve strain on the grid, with the added benefit of reducing their own energy bills at the same time. For more information, visit https://www.euautomation.com/.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.