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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Renewable Thermal Energy: Opportunities and Barriers for the Manufacturing Industry in the UK

Heat generation fromr enewable sources for industrial applications is an area of opportunity that has been overlooked and needs to be explored. Decarbonizing the heat supply for industry should be one of the main priorities if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, tackle climate change, preserve our fuel resources and improve energy security. Renewable thermal energy (RTE) alternatives have the potential to address these issues and shift the industry towards a “greener” and more sustainable path, if the right conditions are present. A literature review was performed to get a deeper understanding of the RTE alternatives available, as well as the heat requirements of the different industrial sectors. The result was a benchmark, in which the limitations of the heat supply were paired up to the heat demand they could deliver. The UK is a country in the midst of an energy crisis with an industry that generates one third of its national GDP. It is of utmost importance to find solutions that keep its industry competitive and productive. RTE alternatives could be one of these solutions. To evaluate the potential of these alternatives in the UK, first the industrial heat consumption was analysed. Suitable industrial sectors and their temperature heat requirements were identified and the potential of each RTE was then calculated. A theoretical maximum potential of 126 TWh was first estimated. Taking a more technically viable approach gave a technical potential of 113 TWh. Further analyses considering UK specific criteria provided a more feasible potential of 89 TWh, with biomass being the main RTE alternative for the UK with a share of 70%. Results also show that with current industrial heat consumption levels, the UK will not be able to meet this demand with the RTE alternatives examined in this work. Other options such as thermal efficiency measures and other renewable heat sources need to be further explored.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.