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Energy transition offers great potential to machine tool industry

Posted on 09 May 2022 and read 720 times
Energy transition offers great potential to machine tool industryThe annual global investment in energy-related plant is set to more than double in the future, from 762 billion euros in 2020 to 1,808 billion euros in 2040. This represents an annual rise of 4.4% in real terms and the prediction is the result of a recent study by the Frankfurt-based VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association), in cooperation with the Munich-based consulting firm Strategy Engineers.

The recent report also highlights a number of promising areas for the machine tool industry. These include the production of: gearboxes and bearings for wind energy; core components such as compressors, pumps and valves for electrolysis; fuel cells; and large numbers of heat pumps.

The aim of the study was to examine the opportunities and challenges that are arising for the machine tool industry because of the energy transition. The study looks at the entire energy value chain of electricity — from generation via distribution through to storage. Renewable energy has a central role to play here. Also considered are hydrogen, stationary and mobile fuel cells, heat pumps, carbon-recovery and storage.

Franz-Xaver Bernhard, the VDW’s chairman, said: “The German government has declared its intention to speed up the energy transition process, which has significantly raised the pressure. Greater efforts are needed to combat man-made climate change.

“At the same time, the war in Ukraine is drastically illustrating how important it is to free ourselves of our dependence on fossil fuels. Available exclusively to our members, the study provides timely guidance on how worthwhile it is for machine tool manufacturers to expand their customer base to include the power industry.”

He went on to say that the power sector is responsible for a quarter of CO2 emissions, and therefore has a major role to play in the reduction of pollutants. “Many industrialised countries have committed themselves to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2050, but massive investment will be required to achieve this.

“Key solutions include expanding low-emission energy sources, upgrading the power grid, and developing a hydrogen economy. Major investment is therefore being made in zero-emission technologies such as solar and wind power, as well as in enabling technologies for the energy transition, such as power grid expansion, carbon emission reduction (CCUS), the establishment of a hydrogen economy and heat pumps.”

Among a number of other things, the study shows that the development of renewable energy sources (wind power, solar power, hydropower) currently accounts for 288 billion euros of investment, a figure that is set to rise to 569 billion euros by 2040. Also, that there is great demand for ‘transitional technologies’ such as nuclear and gas-fired power plants to ensure base and peak load capability.

Mr Bernhard added: “That is not all. The variety of applications and technologies makes it necessary to consider the individual areas in detail in order to identify the potential areas of machine tool use. The VDW study does this by analysing the demand for the machine tools needed to machine the relevant components in the individual segments.

“Overall, the energy sector does not currently feature strongly in machine tool sales. However, the projected real growth per year of the relevant market segment until 2040 is significantly above the average longer-term global market growth for machine tools of 1.1%.

“It is especially worthwhile for companies that are already active in the power industry and/or are looking to diversify their customer base to consider the study results carefully. They provide valuable information that is not available anywhere else at this level of detail.”