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Industry under the sun

Industry under the sun

A new approach to the renewability potential of Europe’s regions reveals unexpected opportunities for manufacturing

Where’s the best place to set up a factory in Europe? Athens, of course! As unexpected as it may seem, the Greek capital ranks first in a special list of 40 regions across the EU, for conditions ideal for the integration of renewable energy, notably solar, in manufacturing activities.

That’s the finding of a study by dr. jakob energy research, a German consultancy specialised in renewable energy and climate engineering. “It is actually a bit more complex than that,” clarifies CEO Uli Jakob. “We developed a concept called Manufacturing Reference Scenarios. The idea is to provide an initial assessment of production sites, in terms of how much their energy consumption can be optimised thanks to local factors. To do this, we adopt a benchmarking approach that considers parameters like environmental effect, which refers for instance to the energy mix and CO2 emissions, or the specificities of different sectors when it comes to producing a given quantity (textile, iron or any other product). It goes without saying that different materials use different amounts of energy.”

“Aside from this we also investigated the concept of renewability of industrial locations, that is the global advantage, or disadvantage a company might have from investing in a given production site with regard to the  renewable sources available,” he says.

And Athens scores very high on the so-called radiation analysis. “In our exercise we examined 40 locations in Europe and extracted data on their irradiation across different periods of the year and compared them with the costs of thermal energy. In principle, where you have good irradiation and high costs for energy, you have more favourable conditions for investing in the integration of solar energy in industry.”

Quite interestingly, the study points to Stockholm as another case for a shift to solar, though its irradiation index is definitely lower than those recorded in southern cities such as Lisbon, Madrid or Marseille. “That’s because the costs of energy in Sweden - and also in other northern regions we have considered, like Gothenburg, Oslo and Helsinki - are very high. In the case of Stockholm, the irradiation potential is higher and thus the overall conditions are more promising than in the other cities,”, explains Jakob.

“To get to concrete conclusions on the feasibility and return on investment of a shift to a renewable source, you also need to consider other specific elements like the characteristics and costs of the installations you have in mind. We wanted to provide factory owners with the appropriate methodological tools to evaluate the investments needed to improve the energy efficiency and costs of their production. We know very well that decisions on where to build a factory are the result of fairly complex processes, and in that complexity, an objective appraisal of what a location can offer in terms of renewables, has some added value,” he concludes.

And it’s not only factory managers who are to benefit, according to Alexis Galinos, CEO of the Athens Development & Destination Management Agency, a regional development agency. “This looks like a very interesting tool to inspire regional policies too,” says Galinos, whose attention was immediately caught by the top position of Athens in the solar renewability ranking. “Knowing that our territory has potential in this sense should of course help us raise its attractiveness for industrial investment.”

The study was carried out under Reemain, which also aims at “demonstrating solar technology suitability to the needs of a large scale industrial practice”. The Manufacturing Reference Scenarios approach will be presented in webinars free of charge organised by the European project.

 

By Giuseppe Saija

24 January 2017