Photo by Crystal Kwok on Unsplash

Victoria’s manufacturing efficiency could double by switching to electricity under a new Beyond Zero Emission’s plan.

According to a report launched last week by the climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, manufacturing in Australia consumes more energy per dollar than any other developed country.

The transition to electricity generated by renewables would eliminate the 8 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions that heat for manufacturing generates.

The report targets Victoria, which is known as the “manufacturing state”. Over 13,000 manufacturing firms are based in Victoria, employing over 280,000 people.

Electricity can power any industrial heat process “from cooking a can of baked beans to melting 100 tonnes of iron”. It’s also “fast, precise, modular and available everywhere” when compared to other forms of industrial heating.

Five types of electrical heating, as well as renewable hydrogen, are identified in the report, with each suited to different temperatures.

Heat pumps are ideal for food manufacturing and other industries that don’t need a high heat (under 160 degrees Celsius), and pay themselves off in no time thanks to a 300-700 per cent energy efficiency.

For the hottest temperatures there’s electric arc heating, which passes a powerful electric current through certain gases like argon to melt metal (up to 5000 degrees Celsius).

Other options are electromagnetic heating, which uses three electromagnetic spectrum (infrared, for example) to deliver heat (good for temperatures up to 2000 degrees Celsius) and electrical resistance, which involves passing an electrical current through a resistive heating element such as a metal bar (works for up to 1800 degrees Celsius).

The potential savings are huge. Smart companies are already taking advantage of plummeting renewable costs. Many are leveraging power purchase agreements (PPA), which deliver a typical cost savings of 20-50 per cent.

To get there, the think tank has made a series of recommendations, including developing an industrial strategy that stimulates growth in Victorian low carbon manufacturing and setting sustainable procurement standards and target.

The report also recommends the Victorian government set targets to keep warming under 1.5 degrees to attract clean, renewable industries.

ARENA is also looking to tackle the sector’s giant carbon footprint, starting with the emissions associated with heat processing. It’s backed Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity to investigate energy saving opportunities in this space, including a feasibility study program that’s attracting a lot of attention, according to Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity’s Jonathan Jutsen.

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