Diageo North America Sets Course for Carbon Neutrality with Rondo Heat Batteries

Bar shelves whiskey bottles

Hot bricks set to power distilleries. (Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash)

by | Apr 24, 2024

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) has initiated award negotiations with Diageo North America in a significant push toward industrial sustainability. The negotiations potentially involve funding up to $75 million under its Industrial Demonstrations Program (IDP). This investment is earmarked for the electrification of Diageo’s production facilities in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and Plainfield, Illinois, with both sites aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2026 and 2028, respectively.

Introducing the Rondo Heat Battery

Diageo plans to collaborate with Rondo Energy to incorporate Rondo Heat Batteries at these sites. This technology promises low-cost, zero-carbon heat and power by capturing and storing renewable energy. It effectively eliminates the need for natural gas in boilers during heating processes, addressing concerns of energy intermittency in industrial applications.

Marsha McIntosh-Hamilton, President of North America Supply at Diageo North America, highlighted the strategic benefits of this initiative. “Through our partnership with Rondo Energy we’ll build a model that can be replicated across our supply operations in the U.S.” she stated. The aim is to develop a scalable model across Diageo’s U.S. supply operations.

The project will deploy electric thermal energy storage (ETES) systems, marking a cost-effective advance in industrial decarbonization. This approach provides firm, reliable, clean energy, potentially revolutionizing heat and power models in various sectors, including the broader food and beverage industry. The funding also underpins community benefits programs in Illinois and Kentucky, contributing to Diageo’s ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ plan, which targets comprehensive sustainability goals by 2030.

Scaling Renewable Solutions Across Industries

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized the broader national benefits of such technological advancements. “Spurring on the next generation of decarbonization technologies in key industries like steel, paper, concrete, and glass will keep America the most competitive nation on Earth,” she explained.

Traditionally, beverage industry operations like distilling and bottling have relied heavily on thermal energy from natural gas. This project aims to replace this dependency with renewable sources, potentially reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17,000 metric tons annually. This reduction is comparable to removing over 4,046 gasoline-powered cars from the road each year.

John O’Donnell, CEO of Rondo, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration. “Diageo has been a pioneer in deploying technologies for efficiency, cost reduction, and decarbonization. The Rondo Heat Battery opens new opportunities for simpler cost reductions and deeper integration with renewable energy sources, and we’re honored Diageo has chosen us to help them achieve their 100% renewable energy goal.” he remarked.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will provide additional support for the project. NREL will assist Diageo with techno-economic and life-cycle analyses to validate the carbon reductions achieved at both sites.

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