Supporting manufacturers in their approach to decarbonisation

Around 80 million metric tons CO2 equivalent are emitted by French industry each year. Manufacturers have technical and financial levers at their disposal, to help reduce their emissions. Interview with Nelly Recrosio, Key Accounts director at EDF, who supports large manufacturers in this approach, and Didier Roustan, programme director at EDF Research & Development, who is working with his teams to design new tools to put these changes into practice.

Interview with Nelly Recrosio, Key Accounts director at EDF, and Didier Roustan, programme director at EDF Research & Development

Nelly RecrosioDidier Roustan

When and how did the concept of industry decarbonisation appear?  

NR. Awareness of the need to decrease energy consumption, and actions to achieve it, date back a long time: EDF has been helping manufacturers reduce their energy consumption for several decades. But the concept of decarbonisation, i.e. the reduction of CO2 emissions, only dates back a few years, when the energy transition appeared on the political and societal agenda.  
The need to decarbonise industry has gained traction in France for three reasons. First because society, industry’s customers, are asking for more carbon-neutral products, while at the same time demanding production on French soil. Industry must therefore produce better, with reduced carbon emissions, while remaining competitive. The second reason is regulatory pressure, both global, via European and national commitments to reduce carbon emissions, including the French National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC), and specific to certain industries via sectoral constraints. Finally, there will be increasing financial penalties for industrial CO2 emissions, which will increase costs for manufacturers in the absence of decarbonisation. 

DR. We have been developing solutions for the electrification of industrial uses for several decades. Initially, the aim was to promote independence from fossil fuels, imported energy and fluctuating costs. Now, there is the added advantage that electricity is a low carbon emitter, particularly when its production is based mainly on nuclear power and renewables, as is the case in France. EDF thus has long experience of supporting the electrification of industry and its essential corollary, which is improving process efficiency to maintain competitiveness. 

What levers are available to industry?  

NR. There are three. The first is to reduce direct emissions, i.e. to design more energy-efficient processes or ways of producing, to reduce energy consumption, particularly for industries with high emissions. This can be achieved, for example, by using energy management tools, through improved lighting, which can reduce consumption by 80% (replacement of traditional neon or halogen bulbs with controlled LEDs), and through improved electric motor efficiency. The second lever is to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources, by replacing gas furnaces with electric furnaces, for example, or using processes such as mechanical vapour compression, which allows liquids to be concentrated without using fossil fuels, or making use of industrial heat pumps. Finally, the third lever is recovery: it is often possible to recover some of the heat generated in an industrial process to use it nearby (heating, drying, heating network, etc.), which does not reduce the emission itself but avoids the use of an additional fossil-fuel heat source and its associated emissions.  

DR. At R&D, we have developed several tools, based on our knowledge of industrial processes and performance optimisation. We can thus provide precise figures to companies that want to change their energy choices. We have analytical tools that contribute to the overall optimisation of industrial performance, such as the Motorboard tool for electric motor energy consumption, which represents 70%(1) of energy consumption in manufacturing industry. As for heat recovery, we are also developing several tools for industry because, here too, there are savings to be made both financially and in terms of CO2 emissions. I am thinking in particular of the industrial-temperature heat pumps we are developing, and the EPIFLEX approach, in which we bring our expertise of the circular economy to several companies based in the same region. 

NR. Some industries, with processes that intrinsically depend on carbon-based chemicals or reactions, will never be free of CO2 emissions. In such cases, we deploy strategies for capture and use of the CO2 emitted. These are still new techniques, which we need to explore with our customers. 

DR. Nevertheless, new processes are gradually being developed, even for the industries that emit the most CO2. An example is the European Siderwin project, to which EDF R&D contributes, for the transformation of steel manufacturing processes. 

(1) Source: Electrical Industry Observatory (FR)

What support does EDF Group provide to its industrial customers?  

NR. We help them to define their decarbonisation strategy, advise them, and can also implement avenues for improvement identified by the Group’s various subsidiaries. The success of our intervention stems from our expertise, the innovations developed by R&D, and our support in find funding solutions. 
DR. The context is particularly favourable for decarbonisation projects, as industry has been targeted by incentive mechanisms linked to the European and French emissions goals. There is financial aid to encourage industry to take steps towards decarbonisation. In many fields, mature lower-emission technologies are available. EDF knows all about them and can contribute to extending their use beyond the industrial sectors in which they are currently applied. We help our customers build a solid case, quantified in terms of improved performance, so that investment is facilitated through the recovery plan or energy savings certificates (ESCs). 

What barriers remain?  

NR. For companies, it is mainly a question of finding the “right moment”. Current financial incentives and future regulatory developments call for a decarbonisation strategy in the vast majority of cases: all companies have room for manoeuvre to increase their energy performance and reduce CO2 emissions. 
NR. While individual cases can be complex, the support provided by our experts makes it possible to establish a diagnosis and a financed road map in which the manufacturer is ultimately the winner. Finally, the three key success factors are: expertise (and we have it!), funding (and we have solutions!), innovation (and we have our R&D department and our subsidiaries!).