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Energy transition in the industrial sector often overlooked

Thursday 24 Oct 19


Brian Elmegaard
Head of Section, Professor
DTU Mechanical Engineering
+45 45 25 41 69

High Tech Summit

The focus of this year's DTU High Tech Summit is how digitalisation and new technologies can contribute to solving climate and environmental issues.

Conference themes are:

  • Big Data & Artificial Intelligence
  • Industry 4.0 & Robotics
  • Internet of Things
  • Business Inside Technology
  • Sustainable Energy, Environment & Climate
  • Startup & Entrepreneurship
  • For the Global Goals

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The potentials and challenges of the transition to renewable energy for industrial companies will be highlighted during the upcoming DTU High Tech Summit, where the latest research results in the field will be presented.

There are hardly any Danes who have not heard how we as a society are working on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.

However, there has been very little focus on the work of implementing new smart energy solutions in companies. This in spite of the fact that Danish manufacturing companies are responsible for more than 20% of our total energy consumption.

Professor Brian Elmegaard from DTU Mechanical Engineering is one of the researchers who have been working with energy systems in companies for several years and who have also participated in experiments and tested new solutions in the vibrant urban laboratory EnergyLab Nordhavn.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there is a huge potential for businesses in implementing smart energy solutions. This applies, for example, to increased electrification in those companies that need high temperatures or steam as part of their work processes—such as commercial laundries, slaughterhouses, or breweries—and which today use fossil fuels to ensure those temperatures. By electrifying the process, companies will be able to use energy from renewable sources such as wind turbines instead,” says Brian Elmegaard.

Improving energy utilization in internal processes

Companies are already working on achieving the best possible energy utilisation by reusing, for example, surplus heat from one process in another. However, this is a complicated solution to implement in companies with many different process streams, which can include both cooling and heating.

“Traditionally, it involves a very comprehensive method which requires a large amount of data to map these processes and to subsequently identify how to optimize the energy utilization. It’s a lot of work that requires many detailed measurements,” says Brian Elmegaard.

“Using sensitivity analyses, we have developed a new method that quickly determines the data needed to identify possible energy savings. This means that we can quickly, and without including lots of data, identify how much energy the company can save. We expect this to embolden companies to examine how to optimize their internal energy consumption,” says Brian Elmegaard.

Brian Elmegaard emphasizes that neither increased electrification nor energy optimization of internal processes can be done without investing in new equipment and, therefore, it should be worth the trouble for companies to implement the processes.

Technical development necessary

Brian Elmegaard calls attention to another challenge—the development of the technologies behind the transition to renewable energy.

“The new green technologies are available and must of course be used. However, it is not as straightforward as it may sound, as there is still work to be done to adapt these solutions to the smart and flexible energy supply of the future,” says Brian Elmegaard.

As an example, he mentions heat pumps and their contribution to the district heating system, which has recently been tested on a large scale in EnergyLab Nordhavn.

“In future, our energy grids need to be able to quickly transition to renewable energy whenever it’s available, and this requires further development of heat pump components. They are not currently designed to be turned up and down with the speed required for this transition. This could result in, e.g., the formation of fluid in undesirable areas of the system, which could potentially damage the heat pump compressor,” says Brian Elmegaard.

You can learn more about the potentials and challenges of smart energy in companies at the High Tech Summit on Thursday, 31 October at 10 a.m., where Brian Elmegaard will talk about his latest research.

Admission to the High Tech Summit is free, but you need to sign up.

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