ORC Power Plants for Thermal Energy Harvesting. Aspects related to Policy, Finance and the Job Market

In the EU’s endeavour to achieve its climate goals, a relevant improvement of the energy efficiency of industrial manufacturing processes could be achieved by making use of waste heat. One of the technologies that is suitable for the conversion of waste heat into electricity are Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) power plants.

This report covers three different topics:

  1. A policy review of the current EU policies relevant to ORC technology (including policy recommendations to better address thermal energy harvesting). We found that the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED III) and Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference Documents (BREFs) are most relevant to ORC technology.
  2. The financial viability, by studying indicative ORC business cases for six relevant industries/sectors (glass, cement, steel, oil & gas, chemicals, and the maritime sector). The information on the business cases was collected through interviews with suppliers and (potential) users of ORC systems.
  3. A high-level estimation of the theoretical potential of direct labour opportunities created by ORC investments within the EU.

We have made the following recommendations (aimed at EU policy makers):

  • spread best practices of national EED implementations amongst Member States;
  • update the BREF documents and update them more frequently;
  • classify ORC (besides cogeneration technology) also as waste heat to power technology in the EED and the BREFs for Cement and Energy Efficiency;
  • research the feasibility to include waste heat to power technologies, most notably ORC systems, in the BREF documents for iron & steel, glass, ceramic, chemicals, and oil & gas;
  • carry out a social cost benefit analysis on the application of ORC systems;
  • consider including waste heat to power technologies in the Climate Delegated Act of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.