Here's the thing.
Just 200 aluminium smelters consume the same amount of power as 1.2 billion people use at home. I know this, because I lead a company that is working to make aluminium production greener.
Amongst all the planetary doom and gloom, this is a good news story. This is one of the “solutions” that can help this planet to significantly reduce emissions and decarbonise.
This is my story about why I believe in this technology and how it can make a difference.
Aluminium production is famously power hungry.
But it can be recycled endlessly, it is strong and lightweight - so it has a major role to play in a carbon constrained world that still requires people to fly, drive, live in buildings and communicate.
So, producing less aluminium is not the way to reduce its carbon footprint. Quite the opposite. I believe the world needs more aluminium because in many cases it is a better option than steel in heavy industry. For example, 2kg of steel in a car can be replaced by 1kg of aluminium.
Aluminium production needs so much electricity because it is a 24/7, 365 day-per-year operation, with little to no ability to flex power demand (if you do, the ‘pots’ aluminium is made in effectively freeze over. This is catastrophic, and costly for smelters). This process has barely changed for 120 years. Until now.
I lead a company called EnPot – this is short for Energia Potior which means ‘to master energy’. And that about sums up what this technology does for aluminium smelters. It enables them to flex - or modulate - their power consumption up or down by around 25%.
This may not sound like much, but the spin-off effect of this new-found flexibility impacts the world’s energy grids – which we all know need to increase their proportion of energy from renewable sources as quickly as possible. Renewable energy is variable by its very nature. When the wind stops blowing or sun doesn’t shine, or there’s too little rain to fill our dams. Because we can’t just turn the lights out and wait for more renewable electricity to be generated, this variable renewable energy needs to be backed-up, or firmed.
This can be done by massive batteries (costly), hydro storage, or major energy users like aluminium smelters can dial down their consumption on demand to balance the grid. This is known in the industry as ‘demand-side response’. And until now, aluminium smelters couldn’t do it. With EnPot technology they can.
In fact, if EnPot was incorporated into the world’s smelters today, enabling 100% renewable energy usage, the cumulative savings over the next 30 years could be as much as 52 billion tonnes of CO2 - the equivalent to removing 90% of passenger vehicles on the road today.
And that is why I have stepped into the CEO role at this innovative company.
It is my job to share the story about the benefits this technology can unlock for smelters, for Governments and for the world's energy grids. This is more than just a job for me though. I’ve got three young boys and, like most, I’m worried about the planet they’re going to inherit. So, instead of lamenting the damage that’s been done, I am doing absolutely everything I can to help the world’s 200 aluminium smelters produce greener aluminium and at the same time support our energy grids to be dominated by renewables, while still being reliable and low-cost.
It is a lot to take in, so I have just launched EnPot’s new website in a bid to explain all this as simply as I can. Please do feel free to reach out to me. I’d be delighted to talk with anyone who is on board with EnPot’s mission.
*Originally published on Karyna's LinkedIn profile.