Improved energy efficiency within the Swedish steel industry—the importance of energy management and networking
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The iron and steel industry is an energy-intensive industry that consumes a significant portion of fossil fuel and electricity production. Climate change, the threat of an unsecure energy supply and rising energy prices have emphasised the issue of improved energy efficiency in the iron and steel industry. However, an energy-efficiency gap is well recognised, i.e. cost-efficient measures are not implemented in practice. This study will go deeper into why this gap occurs by investigating energy-management practices at 11 iron and steel companies in Sweden. Energy managers at the steel plants were interviewed about how they perceived their own and their companies’ efforts to improve energy efficiency and how networking among energy managers influenced the efforts to improve energy efficiency. Reported barriers to improved energy efficiency were, for example, too long payback period, lack of profitability, lack of personnel, risk of production disruption, lack of time and lack of commitment. Only three out of the eleven companies had assigned a person to work full time with energy management, and some of the energy managers were frustrated with not having enough time to work with energy issues. Generally, the respondents felt that they had support from senior management and that energy issues were prioritised, but only a few of the companies had made great efforts to involve employees in improving energy efficiency. Networking among Swedish steel companies was administered by the Swedish Steel Producers’ Association, and their networking meetings contributed to the exchange of knowledge and ideas. In conclusion, Swedish steel companies regard improved energy efficiency as important but have much work left to do in this area. For example, vast amounts of excess heat are not being recovered and more efforts could be put into engaging employees and introducing a culture of energy efficiency.
KeywordsEnergy efficiency Energy management Networking Iron and steel industry Interviews
The work has been carried out under the auspices of the Energy Systems Programme, which is financed by the Swedish Energy Agency. The work was co-financed by Göranssonska Fonden, which is a trust fund. The author wishes to thank the interviewees for their participation and Jenny Palm and Mats Söderström at Linköping University for their valuable comments on this paper.
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