The energy transition is gathering momentum as pressure from society leads policy makers and investors to demand faster and deeper cuts to carbon dioxide (C[O.sub.2]) emissions from all industrial sectors. Simultaneously, technology is facilitating change, with falling costs of renewable energy resulting in cheaper and greener power, and digitalization allowing energy suppliers and consumers to act in a connected, nimble way. Despite this, world demand for energy has increased, and will continue to increase, for the foreseeable future.
One change in the balance between energy production and consumption will occur as the demand side is poised to make substantial geographical shifts over the coming decades. North America, Europe and Japan are projected to experience decreasing demand--while the rest of the world, especially developing regions, will see increasing demand, led by China and India. This increasing demand will often be led by heavy industry energy consumption, particularly in the petrochemical industries. However, basic societal energy demands also coexist with economic and environmental considerations. The ideal goal is for enough energy to be produced at the best price in a sustainable manner, with consumption optimized to mitigate demand.
As new power generation assets and industrial users are brought online, they are built with the latest technologies to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. However, these new systems will be added incrementally over the years to come. Therefore, it is imperative to consider the massive installed base of production and consumption equipment, which represents a huge optimization opportunity.
The scope of this holistic endeavor includes considering both technology advances and human decision-making processes augmented by better data analysis. In particular, the energy transition toward renewables makes the supply side even more time-sensitive, placing demands for better optimization planning on the demand side.
Energy efficiency is the most economically attractive means of carbon mitigation. The reduced industrial energy demand will reduce the amount of new investment required in new energy infrastructure, because industry consumes much of the energy generated by power plants and produced hydrocarbon resources. Optimization efforts are equally applicable to both the supply side and the demand side across the energy, chemical and process industries. This article examines how the energy transition can be complemented with demand-side optimization, with a focus on heavy industrial plants.
Power generation and use trends.
Developing new renewable generation capacity is certainly a part of the energy transition, representing a strong and growing trend. Approximately 20% of total energy demand is satisfied by renewable sources, and that percentage will continue to grow.
However, this leaves the remaining 80% of energy sources--which are already in service--as candidates for emissions reduction if demands can be optimized. Analysis by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) indicates that, in 2016, 30% (118 exajoules) of world energy consumption was by industry consumers, (1) of which refineries and petrochemical plants constitute a significant portion. Only a minute portion of this energy demand is supplied by sources other than coal, oil and natural gas.
For many industrial processes, energy represents the largest controllable...