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Management Side

Energy and Sustainable Solutions (...but are they effective?)

There's a great deal of hullabaloo right now (and a lot of money to be made) in the fields of alternative and green energy. But only certain green energy technologies will work for large industries like our pulp and paper mills. (Solar simply won't do the job.)

So where's the industrial energy innovation at right now?

Wind Power

According to the Arctic Business Journal, Northern Sweden is generating a massive push towards the green energy movement, focusing largely on wind power, but also on (carbon neutral) e-methanol, batteries, and electric aviation, among other things.

One problem with the arctic wind power is, it's coming at quite the cost to the Sami (otherwise known as Lapplanders), the reindeer herders who live a traditional life, and have until now had legal protections for their land, livelihoods and traditional ways of living.

Another problem with wind power is: it's not always windy.

And those batteries: the metals used are not environmentally friendly.

Hydroelectric Power

Indeed, some of the lowest electric rates (or so I'm told) come from the areas getting their power from Niagara Falls. That's the perfect hydropower source. Even during severe droughts those falls still flow, and the lights in both southern Ontario, Canada, and Buffalo, NY and beyond continue to stay lit.

Hydropower is touted as well in Germany as the "Swiss army knife" of the energy industry, since it can be used as you would a battery. Have low power supply because it's been cloudy for days with no wind? Switch seamlessly to hydroelectric power to maintain a steady electric supply.

But even hydroelectric power, with all its Swiss-army-knife abilities cannot yet resuscitate the European energy market.

Industrial output from Germany, Europe's largest economy, is expected to slow down in 2024 by 1.5% compared to last year due to higher energy prices, as well as higher interest rates. It's a bad combination that's hurting everyone.

Green and Blue Hydrogen

Since hydrogen can be used to run a power plant it'll do for any just about any other heavy industry, including pulp and paper mills. Hydrogen seems like the thing to watch. Green and blue hydrogen are the front runners, with green hydrogen being powered by renewable energy sources, and blue hydrogen being powered by natural gas. (Learn more here.) Blue hydrogen has clear advantages, especially at a mill.

What's the 10,000 Foot View?

The reality is, there's intermittency with nearly all renewable energy. Wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. Then there's the batteries. Non-polluting battery options are still in their developmental infancy. The vast majority of rechargeable batteries still rely on lithium, which (despite what the lithium pundits say) aren't tremendously recyclable - yet.

And renewable energy still costs more. I don't know about you, but I really don't need to pay yet one more larger bill, do you?

Of the energy sources listed, hydrogen is your best bet. And it has enough power to get a mill powered up.

Hopefully it's your power company that has these concerns / headaches, and not your mill, but there are plenty of industries which are confronted with switching power sources. - Of course many of those industries are also not in the middle of the woods.

Best thing to do? Stay on top of what's happening locally, so if you're on the "ins" with your local or state representatives, you can put in a helpful word that'll benefit your mill and your neighborhood if proposed energy changes come.

And enjoy the beautiful May weather, wherever you may be.



 


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