The Reducing Industry Carbon Emissions (RICE) operation has been set up in direct response to Welsh Government targets for CO₂ reduction.
The cold hard fact is that in Wales, industrial emissions account for 40 per cent of our emissions, which is significantly higher than elsewhere in the UK. We know that a low carbon future needs not only robust and sustainable systems, but also effective ways of managing the inevitable carbon emissions that arise from heavy industrial processes such as metals, cement, and chemicals manufacturing. The all-important question this leads to is what changes can Welsh industry make to achieve their contribution to Net Zero? And that’s where RICE comes in.
Our goal is twofold. We are an EU-backed scheme, responsible for testing and driving forward next generation technologies to help reduce carbon emissions from Welsh industry.
The reality is, the target of Net Zero will not be met with present technology alone and it is our job at RICE to find ways to develop demonstrators that decarbonise Welsh industry through innovation. The concepts we create draw on world-class expertise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from large and heavy equipment and they have the potential for significant social and economic impact, most notably in terms of job creation and economic growth. Very importantly, they are created in the knowledge that industry needs solutions that are economically viable for the long term – because for them, staying in business is what it’s all about. Put simply, we develop, test and work with our partners to bring solutions to site so as to de-risk the process for industry.
We also look at ways in which CO₂ can be used as a source of raw material rather than a waste product to be emitted into the environment. We do that by working with local supply chain companies to test how CO₂ produced from heavy industrial processes can be innovatively used to make high value products and industrially important chemicals. This includes the testing of green hydrogen, which can be used to fuel cars, other modes of transport, and energy production processes, further helping to reduce our carbon footprint.
RICE works in a partnership approach with Swansea University, the European Regional Development Fund, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), Sustainable Energy Research Centre (SERC), the University of South Wales and George Ewart Evans Storytelling Centre. Project partners in Welsh industry include The Royal Mint, Rockwool and Hansons Cement Group.
You learn as you go, but getting a head start on what to do, and equally importantly what not to do, by learning from others is a really good idea.
Firstly, you should talk to people and listen to what they have to say. We had a lot of conversations with industry before embarking on the project. The reality is we were never going to come up with solutions if we didn’t understand the detail of their problems - there’s absolutely no point in building new technologies that people don’t want to use. You also have to be able to prove that your solutions are financially viable problem solvers for them in the long term.
You should also take risks - it’s the only way to make a real difference. As the Queen said prior to COP 26, “they talk, but they don’t do” – and she’s absolutely right. Now is the time to think big and take risks – and just get out and do it. When talking with our partners, I was very clear that I would be happy if one of the six demonstrators they were working on came good. Multiple risks are the answer because this is the way change happens – it doesn’t come from being cautious. Go out on a limb and try something different because it’s better to get something wrong by being brave than playing a cautious game and making no difference at all.
Choose your partners wisely. Be clear from the start on your expectations and outcomes so everyone understands what’s expected. It’s important for all parties to not only be able to commit in the first instance, but to be available for the long term.
Don’t be discouraged! The administration, particularly around the likes of financing of major projects, can be exhausting and frustrating in equal measure. Don’t let it get you down and always remember the bigger picture.
Everything takes longer than you think – that’s an absolute certainty. Multi-agency and partnership working does not mean things happen overnight. Allow for this in your planning and in your measuring because I’ve found that things that you think should take a month, actually take a year. You have to be flexible and keep your focus.