ARENA backs Shell-led program to help manufacturers use more solar, less gas

Twenty Queensland manufacturers will take part in an ARENA-backed and ERM Power led program to boost industrial energy productivity, cut emissions and reduce costs – including by the electrification of gas-based processes and by installing solar.

ARENA said on Thursday that it would provide $250,000 in funding to ERM Power, a Brisbane-based commercial and industrial energy retailer now fully owned by global oil major Shell, to put towards the $600,000 project.

ERM Power says the project builds on a successful pilot in 2018 that identified energy cost savings of up to 28% through energy productivity gains, electrification of gas-based processes, and adoption and optimisation of renewable technologies, including onsite solar.

It said the 20 businesses participating in the extension of the program would include small and medium-sized manufacturers ranging from the food and beverage sector to metals and chemical production, and machinery and equipment fabrication.

The program would develop unique, integrated energy management plans for each of those businesses, which would be designed around data and technology to analyse their patterns of energy use.

The overarching goal, says ERM Power, is to empower manufacturers to better understand their energy use, enabling them to make more confident investment decisions to improve their energy efficiency, lower cost and lower emissions.

“Energy can be complex to navigate, and a lack of access to relevant, credible information and tools is a significant barrier to improving energy productivity,” said Shell Energy vice president and ERM Power CEO Greg Joiner in its own statement on Thursday.

“Ever cheaper energy alone will not overcome every obstacle to competitive manufacturing in Australia, and we all have a responsibility to ensure every electron and molecule is put to its most efficient use.

“We are proud to be partnering with customers to deliver the choices and expertise to help them thrive through the energy transition.”

One Step Off The Grid did ask, however, if it was within ARENA’s remit to help pay for a program that was, essentially, being run by a global oil giant.

ARENA did not get around to answering our question in time for publication, but Shell responded that the investment from ARENA was ongoing, from the previous pilot, and being met with in-kind investment by ERM, which was not always owned by Shell.

Shell, meanwhile, “continues to invest heavily in the energy transition, in line with our net-zero by 2050 ambition, and follows a string of investments in New Energies in Australia,” a spokesperson told One Step on Thursday.

For ARENA, the energy assessments will be used to develop case studies that will be published on an online portal and shared with other businesses to be used in developing their own renewable energy transition plan.

“The importance of supporting industry to reduce emissions through transitioning to clean energy technologies is a key element of the recently released First Low Emissions Technology Statement,” said ARENA chief Darren Miller in a statement.

“This project is a great initiative in helping to reduce barriers for Queensland businesses to access information, training and networking opportunities to support renewable energy uptake in the manufacturing sector.”

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