In Focus    |    05.2023

The future of clean energy

Planets don’t leave a trail of pollution behind them as they hurtle through space, but everything we do on Earth has a price to be paid in our atmosphere. That price, counted in greenhouse gases (GHGs), is adding up and CKHH companies are now working hard to reduce the cost before it proves catastrophic.

They are investing in research and a clean energy future at the point of generation and distribution which now flows to and from consumers. Day 3 of the first CKHH Global Climate Action Conference saw Joanna Chen, Executive Director and Head of Business Development at CKI lead a discussion among the most cutting-edge energy companies in the world, setting the tone saying, “Decarbonisation and environmental preservation is now front and centre for us and we must transition!”

Decarbonisation and environmental preservation is now front and centre for us and we must transition!

Rubbish in, energy out

Human domestic and industrial waste inflicts multiple evils on nature by poisoning water tables and marring coastlines. Even when properly contained, it degrades to produce a potent GHG, methane. Two CKHH companies, AVR in the Netherlands and EnviroNZ in New Zealand, break the chain by deriving energy from waste (EfW) in the best possible way. Companies using AVR energy and steam can measure its green qualities against their carbon output.

AVR’s Dutch operations receive rubbish unsuitable for recycling, save it from landfill and bring it to its plant where it can be converted into energy. Paper pulp residue, household and commercial waste wood and waste water are processed. The outputs are recycled metal and minerals in addition to thermal energy. Thermal energy is used in a variety of forms for households and businesses, with 48% of the heat being directed to household heating for local communities. A helpful 20% of the energy is delivered as electricity that goes back into the grid. Another 12% is directed to industrial processes in the form of steam. The hot water travels to facilities such as hospitals at a temperature of 120°C. It only loses 2°C along the way and then returns at 80°C to be heat-boosted and cycled through again.


AVR, Duiven
AVR, Rozenburg

Divert, capture, replace

Carbon capture is “the new thing”. Gas from AVR’s EfW is contained and diverted to an absorption column with a special solvent that captures up to 85% of the carbon. Heating the solvent releases pure CO2 that can be used in greenhouses (where plants turn it into food and O2) or for fire extinguishers and sustainable concrete.

New Zealand has the world’s highest generation of rubbish per capita and the government is getting serious about tackling it. The disposal levy, an emission trading scheme and mandatory waste diversion are all methods being used to promote waste minimisation and reduce GHG emissions. EnviroNZ is working with partners to capture and divert various waste streams including traditional recycling. It is also adopting new technologies to divert concrete, timber and organic waste. The company captures methane, a potent GHG, generated at existing landfills to prevent it from getting into the atmosphere. Captured methane and wood are being utilised to generate energy which is being used to power homes and drive industrial processes (ie, cement manufacturing).

EDL, headquartered in Brisbane with worldwide operations, is another company generating energy from biogas, a term for untreated methane generated from decaying organic material. Like EnviroNZ, it captures biogas at landfills for electricity generation as well as processing it into cleaner biomethane (also known as renewable natural gas or RNG) that can be used in transport. American regulation is very supportive of the use of this cleaner fuel, which displaces over 1.6 billion litres of diesel on American roads. The company also sells carbon credits, which businesses buy to reduce their carbon footprint.

Two CKHH companies, AVR and EnviroNZ, break the chain by deriving energy from waste in the best possible way.

It ain’t pretty, but it’s green

Northumbrian Water (NWG) is leading the “Power from Poo” movement in the UK. All of NWG’s raw sludge from 400 treatment works is processed in advanced anaerobic digesters to produce methane that can be used to generate electricity. This, of course, keeps it out of waterways. A side bonus is the capture of up to 110,000 tonnes of biosolids that are used to fertilise UK crops. Rather than using energy to clean up sewage, the sludge becomes an energy source.

NWG is leading the ‘Power from Poo’ movement in the UK.

NWG is also experimenting with using less energy to process wastewater through natural means. Supporting oyster beds is one means. Another with more capacity is the use of algae to clean industrial effluent. A small test run in Teesside, northern England, has been successful and the firm is moving to establish a larger operation, a standalone algae-driven processing plant.

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group is part of the hydrogen revolution that is just getting underway. In addition to their Hydrogen Parks generating hydrogen from green sources, it is also making the necessary changes to bring hydrogen to people’s homes and businesses by ensuring their distribution networks are hydrogen-ready. Replacing older gas mains with new generation polyethylene pipes increases network safety and has the added benefit of being able to transport hydrogen. Traditional cast-iron pipes are out and hydrogen-friendly polyethylene pipes are in.

Give a little, take a little

Some energy companies are also having to revamp their distribution systems away from the traditional “one-direction” (from producer to consumer) system to one that can accept user-generated power into the grid. HK Electric buys customer-generated renewable energy and imports it into the main electricity grid, paying the customers preferential prices, ie, higher than customers pay for HK Electric’s generated electricity. Companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint can buy Renewable Energy Certificates that represent units of renewable energy generated by HK Electric or their customers.

CitiPower and Powercor, a combined subsidiary of Victoria Power Networks, is a next-gen distribution company known as a DSO – a Distribution System Operator. It has 208,000 customers with rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and continues to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy, while at the same time enabling significant levels of small- and large-scale renewable generation. Running a distribution network with increasing levels of decentralised generation poses special challenges and requires new, innovative solutions. In other parts of the world, much home-generated electricity is taken up by electric vehicles (EVs), but EV uptake in Australia is currently low. That means CitiPower and Powercor has to manage two-way flows of energy across the grid to manage network demand and support the overall energy system. Implementation of battery distribution strategies to homes and local communities, load distribution with hot water and an EV strategy are all part of the ongoing effort to create a new world where emission-free energy is generated, stored and used everywhere.

Another CKHH company, SA Power Networks, is enabling that. The company distributes energy and its customers are demanding that they have the capacity to connect their own solar PVs and batteries to the grid and, more and more, asking the company to enable EV charging at home.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is also in on the DSO game. It has over 190,000 distribution-connected generator–customers, or more correctly, “prosumers”, who generate their own power. Their Flexible Connections programme allows property owners to generate their own energy and connect to the grid, usually solar or wind power. UKPN takes an active role in educating potential energy producers to learn how to do their part to help the UK hit its net-zero targets.

Many of the approaches are upending the traditional means of generating energy using one polluting source in a big plant that sends electricity down wires to end users. Sewage and waste are being turned into energy, hydrogen is coming down the pipes and now families are generating clean energy to share with their neighbours – and CKHH companies are making it happen.

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