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Realizing Cement’s Potential to Power the Energy-Efficient Dream of India

When it comes to establishing sustainable practices in the cement sector, climate change and energy security are two of the most pressing global issues which not only require collective dialogue but also collaborative actions to ensure equitable socio-economic development.
Being one of the most energy-intensive industries, nearly 30% to 40% of the total manufacturing costs in the cement industry are attributed to energy consumption. With annual output exceeding 4 billion tonnes, cement production, alone accounts for about 8% of global CO2 emissions each year, excluding the building and construction activity which is responsible for a whopping 37% of CO2 emissions.
The net annual emissions of the cement industry must be reduced by at least 16% in order for the industry to meet the ambitious 2030 targets set in the Paris Accord. Most cement manufacturers have been investing heavily in carbon capture & storage technologies to achieve decarbonization but there have been indirect emissions from the plant’s use of electricity and heat which also require a due share of attention by cement players.
Out of the total CO2 emissions in the cement industry, 35 percent comes from only the energy used in heat kilns to produce clinker, and the chemical processes that convert limestone into calcium oxide. To transition towards sustainable practices, Waste Heat Recovery (WHRS) and solar energy plants are currently being implemented in the industry to reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. 
In addition, the use of cheaper alternative fuels is one method being adopted by the industry. In comparison to specialised incinerators, the use of alternative fuels reduces global CO2 emissions because combustion occurs at a lower temperature.

Road towards energy-efficient Indian cement industry

Tech-innovation will act as a catalyst in achieving the cement industry’s sustainability potential, which will reduce their energy costs and protect the environment for future generations. There is a need for a shift in mindsets of cement plant owners to overcome their inhibition to adopt innovative next-practice platforms like smart grid technology. Meters, sensors, and applications on this grid will assist manufacturers in further optimising the energy used in technologies on-site.
Cement producers in India are incorporating sustainability into their growth goals by implementing cutting-edge technological interventions, innovative production methods, and climate-resilient resource optimization measures. Installation of Waste heat recovery systems (WHRS) has provided substantial advantages to Indian cement plants, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also contributing to the country’s long-term energy security. 
India’s cement plants tend to be located in dry, humid regions where solar energy has a lot of potentials. Manufacturers who have installed solar power plants and solar water heating systems can meet their RPO and PAT obligations while also reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the use of CSP (Concentrated Solar Power). 
Energy efficiency can also be improved through the utilisation of wind power or alternative fuels. The national transmission grid can be used to power wind farms that are located far from the manufacturing plant. There are numerous ways to save on energy consumption, such as utilising waste and biomass as alternate fuels in operations. Government-promoted use of hydrogen in operations can also help significantly decarbonize cement industry operations, but the furnace must be re-designed for adaptability.

Concrete Partnerships for a green transition

A significant investment of USD 70 billion in renewable energy assets across the country in the past seven years, will aid to create a zero-carbon future by supplementing our current power sourcing strategy with green power. It’s important to remember that these goals can only be achieved if the right policies and financial resources are in place over the long term.
In the years to come, meeting India’s rising energy needs due to industrial and population growth could be a challenge. A low carbon economy can’t get off to a fast start without a thorough assessment of the current gaps and the establishment of concrete partnerships between cement manufacturers and the government.
India and the rest of the world’s leading cement producers are increasingly harnessing and taking advantage of clean-energy opportunities while reducing their carbon footprint. Cement companies are fuelling a robust business growth story by ensuring that manufacturing is done in an environmentally friendly manner. Investing in renewable energy can help India meet its global climate goals. The Indian cement industry, as well as the entire global built environment, will benefit from these developments, which will help lay the groundwork for a zero-carbon economy by the middle of the 21st century.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Neeraj Akhoury brings with him over 28 years of rich experience in the steel and cement industries. He has worked in leadership roles in India and other emerging markets. He was appointed as Managing Director & CEO of ACC Limited in February 2017. In February 2020, he took over as CEO India, Holcim, Managing Director & CEO, Ambuja Cements Limited and Non-Executive Director, ACC Limited. He is on the board of Governors at National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCCBM) constituted by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. He also serves as Vice President of Cement Manufacturers Association of India.
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The CSR Journal Team