Day 2 - Meeting the Net Zero challenge: bringing innovation to industry

IEEA industrial worker

This event was run in tandem with the recently published results from Phases One and Two of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA). These results indicate that from the 16 demonstration, innovative cross-sector projects supported, up to 40.6TWh of energy could be saved by 2031.

The core focus of discussions centred on how to speed up innovative technologies to achieve the Net Zero target while reducing cost.  

Day 2 highlights

On Day 2 of the event, discussions focused on the role of innovation in meeting Net Zero. A range of technologies including hydrogen, carbon capture, electrification, and fundamental process changes will be needed. However, there is no doubt that the challenge will be easier and more cost effective if improvements in energy and resource efficiency are delivered first. 

Opening the panel discussion, our host Sabrina Kleissl of the Carbon Trust highlighted the opportunity offered by the BEIS Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator (IEEA) programme to speed up these much needed technologies. To date, the IEEA has supported the development of 16 process energy efficiency innovations which could lead to 40.5TWh of energy saved by 2031 - enough to power 12% of electricity usage in the UK in 2019, and representing up to 10MtCO2e cumulative carbon savings over ten years.

There is a need to focus on both incremental improvements and step-change technologies in parallel. Projections from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) show that most carbon savings from now until 2030 are expected to come from energy and resource efficiency measures. However, all of the participants at the summit agreed that we need to accelerate development and deployment of breakthrough technologies now to be ready by 2050. 

David Jukes, Programme Development Director of Costain Ltd emphasised how important it is for decision makers to move away from a binary view of technology solutions in order to accelerate the decision-making process. A more holistic approach is needed to deliver a decarbonisation strategy as there is not one ‘right choice’ solution. Policy makers need to be more aware of the range of options on offer. 

"It is important to remember that a lot of the innovation that’s taking place is being done by SMEs that need more support and a platform to showcase the developing technologies into demonstrators and deployment," said Karen Oliver-Spry, Investment Programmes Manager at HEY LEP. Networks and incubators have a key role to ensure that the full range of technology developments are on the radar of policy and decision makers as potential solutions for the future, to avoid them being developed in isolation.

Julia King, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, and Chair of the Carbon Trust pointed out that highly distributed industries are likely to struggle more in the Net Zero transition. The current UK Government’s Net Zero strategy for industry focuses particularly on major clusters, and is not planned to tackle decarbonisation for dispersed sites at scale until later in the 2020s. This, among other factors, will cause different industries to decarbonise at different rates. The more that we can do to promote demonstration of technologies, beyond the R&D stage until they reach commercialisation, the better, said Paul McKinney of the Carbon Trust, to bypass the naturally risk-averse nature of decision makers. There needs to be support for technology development throughout this process, allowing the cost to come down. 

Early adopters are key to lead the way, it was agreed. Alexandra Brennan, Head of Sustainability at Johnson Service Group highlighted that "greater engagement between the R&D companies and the industrial companies […] is a gap that needs to be addressed." It is mutually beneficial for industry and developers to have opportunities to prove their R&D in a production environment. "If they can prove it, and they can demonstrate it, that is when it gets to the next stage of deployment." It also opens to doors to further investment once the technology has been proven to operate in a commercial situation. 

Continuing the dialogue of collaboration, Dr Richard Leese, Director or Industrial Policy, Energy and Climate Change at Mineral Products Association cited how the MPA (as a trade association) represented all UK cement manufacturers through their IEEA project to develop low carbon multicomponent cements. This helped to share the risk, but also widened the benefit, as the whole industry makes learnings concurrently. The result here is expedited deployment at a larger scale. 

When questioned on the prioritisation needed to drive innovation further forward, Karen Oliver-Spry noted that it depends on where the technology is in the development stage. She argued that the focus should be on connecting the research, development, demonstration and deployment phases together more closely. Currently there are too many separate pots of funding, for research and demonstration she contended, which can stall development. 
Some technologies are more relevant to certain sectors, so increasing collaboration, and linking R&D with target industrial sectors more closely, would be a step forward. 

This is a key priority of the IEEA, but is certainly one of the more challenging aspects of recruiting participants to the programme, said Paul McKinney. A range of technology developers present ideas but sometimes lack an industry partner to demonstrate it, however this is an issue that is being addressed. Industrial companies keen to accelerate innovation in efficiency are encouraged to register to hear more about the exciting range of new technology ideas being submitted, and to be connected with relevant developers.

Energy and resource efficiency improvements in industry are already having a positive impact on decarbonisation, and enhancing collaboration is key to fast-track their further adoption. While further R&D is needed to develop step-change technologies still to be known, acceleration and incubation programmes and policy have a significant role to play now to fan the flames of innovation that will help us meet the Net Zero target.

Day 1- Meeting the Net Zero challenge: bringing innovation to industry

About the IEEA

The BEIS IEEA is a funding programme designed to support partnerships between developers of energy/resource efficient technologies and industrial companies willing to demonstrate the technologies on-site.

The programme is open to projects from all UK industry sectors that can demonstrate either a novel process technology (targeting Technology Readiness Level 5-8), or the use of an established process technology in a novel way.

Phase Four of the IEEA is expected to launch in spring. Organisations are encouraged to submit their idea by using the IEEA website form,  for an initial review and feedback. For those innovators without a partner, the Carbon Trust may be able to support to find one.  

Find out more about the IEEA here