Friday, 7 August 2015

The food industry and energy

A new report out from the European Union shows that, firstly a quarter of all energy is consumed by the food industry - and, secondly, that something can be done to reduce this:

Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for improvement 

The food sector accounts for about 26% of the EU’s energy consumption with agriculture responsible for nearly a third of this and processing 28%. 
Refined products and products of animal origin generally need several times more energy than vegetables, fruits and cereal products. 
Agricultural energy consumption per hectare has declined by about 1% every year in the last two decades. 
Experience of organic farming, no-tillage and integrated farming could help to minimise energy inputs. 
Farmers have the potential to not only become energy self-sufficient, but also to make a major contribution to energy production. While it is generally true that food travelling long distances embeds more energy than locally originated food this is not always the case. 

This paper is taken from the executive summary of “Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for improvement", F Monforti-Ferrario et al, JRC Science and Policy Report, European Commission: 


Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for improvement | Farming Futures
Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for improvement - JRC Science Hub - European Commission

Here's a little more background:

Food production may be causing an EU energy crisis

July 7, 2015 | By Jaclyn Brandt

Food production may not come to mind when thinking of energy use, but in the European Union (EU), it accounts for nearly 20 percent of total energy use.

Farm irrigation and sprinkler. Credit: Abhay iari/Wikimedia Commons
According to a new report by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) at EXPO Milano, "Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for improvement," Food production from beginning to end -- including  crop cultivation, animal rearing, industrial food processing, logistics and packaging -- accounts for 17 percent of EU energy use.

Policy also plays an important part. The EU's 20 percent renewable goal by 2020 has forced the industry adopt changes and reduce their usage. The study found that EU policies have not targeted food production processes, even though they have made significant movements to reduce energy consumption and increase renewable energy targets.
Renewable energy in the food sector is around 7 percent, while overall renewables in the EU account for 15 percent of energy. Fossil fuels account for 79 percent of energy consumed in the food sector, compared with 72 percent of overall energy.

"Different food products need very different amounts of energy per unit of mass depending on their nature, their origin and the kind of processing they have been subjected to," the report said. "Refined products and products of animal origin generally need an amount of energy several times larger than vegetables, fruits and cereal products."

A study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also found that "Dependence on energy throughout the entire food chain raises concerns about the impact of high or variable energy prices on the final price of food for the consumer, as well as about domestic food security and the country's possible reliance on imports of energy," the EU report found. "In addition to concerns about energy/food prices and energy security, the use of energy in the food chain can also have environmental impacts, one example being carbon dioxide emissions."

The study also found that food-related energy use has remained a substantial share of the total national energy budget and food-related energy flows in the US may have increased significantly over the last few years.

But in the EU, because of the overall efforts to implement renewable energy and other efficiency tactics on the EU grid, direct energy consumption is declining by about 1 percent a year, according to the report.

The report looked at numerous food processing facilities within the EU, including Kellogg UK, which has made efforts to reduce energy use. "The engineering teams at the Kellogg factories in Manchester and Wrexham have identified innovative applications for the capture and use of heat as an energy source, which has helped reduce gas consumption," the report said.

Through different projects at the factories, the company has saved 3,700 megawatt-hours (mWh) in less than four years, and the Manchester factory alone reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent since 2009. "As a company, and as individuals, we are passionate about enriching and delighting the world through foods and brands that matter," said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at Kellogg, in a statement. "We understand that people care about how the foods they eat are grown and produced. That's why environmentally sustainable practices are such a crucial part of ensuring our brands remain relevant with consumers."

The report suggested numerous tactics for increasing the efficiency in the food sector, including a more efficient use of fertilizer production technology, avoiding unnecessary fertilizer applications, and use of experience gained in organic farming. Investing in farm-based renewable energy, like biogas, could allow farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The EU food industry is making important contributions to make their activities more sustainable, through both increased investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements," the researchers explained. "The food industry's energy consumption from 2005-13 has declined, both in absolute terms as well as in terms of energy intensity, producing more while using less energy. Several food processing industries are also exploring the possibility of recovering the energy contained in food residues on site, through biogas production or in dedicated combined heat and power plants."

For more: - view the full report

Food production may be causing an EU energy crisis - FierceEnergy

The UK government gives advice:
Defra, UK - Science Search
Food and drink - Carbon Trust

It's an issue which has been around for some time:
Our energy-gulping industrial food system revealed in eight bullet points | Grist

And there are all sorts of ideas out there:
Energy Efficiency and Saving in the Agri-food Industry | ClimateTechWiki

Meanwhile, it appears that businesses are taking this into account:
How COP 21 is feeding Kellogg’s supply chain strategy - 06 Aug 2015 - News from BusinessGreen
How Mars is greening pet food with bycatch and grain - 31 Jul 2015 - Feature from BusinessGreen
Solar power helps food company cut rising energy bills - Industry Today

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