Food & Beverage Sector

In the U.S., food and beverage processing and manufacturing represents the fourth largest sector of industrial heat emissions, after refineries, chemicals, and iron and steel. The low-temperature range (<130°C) accounts for 97% of the heat in this sector, making electrification (especially heat pumps) and solar thermal promising decarbonization solutions.

What is the RTC doing?

To accelerate the decarbonization of this critical sector, the Renewable Thermal Collaborative launched the Food and Beverage Working Group in February 2023. 

As the first step of the working group, the RTC worked with Guidehouse to create a playbook for deploying heat pumps and electric boilers in the food and beverage sector.  The Playbook was published in August 2023.

  • Quantify the emissions and energy use for the main food and beverage sector processes at a high level by subsector, region, temperature range, process type, and food ingredients.  
  • Review the federal policy landscape and incentives, as well as  in key states, such as product standards, tax incentives, efficiency, compliance rules, clean and equitable jobs acts, etc.  
  • Characterize the technology maturity of heat pumps and electric boilers and their applicability to the selected processes and temperature ranges.  
  • Review the general market and commercial barriers preventing widespread adoption of the selected technologies and specific situations or barriers in key states.
  • Develop recommendations for key market and policy stakeholders to overcome technology, market, and policy barriers, and scale the adoption of heat pumps and electric boilers to decarbonize process heat in the food and beverage sector.

Selected materials and webinars

Playbook for Decarbonizing Process Heat in the Food & Beverage Sector

The low-temperature heat accounts for 97% of the thermal energy use in the U.S. food and beverage sector, making electrification with heat pumps and electric boilers a promising opportunity for cutting emissions in the near-term. To accelerate electrification in this critical sector, the RTC published the Playbook for Decarbonizing Process Heat in the Food and Beverage Sector, co-authored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Guidehouse. This playbook:

  • Assesses major technology, market, and policy barriers to adoption of heat pumps and electric boilers.
  • Recommends priority actions for each stakeholder group so that they can leverage opportunities with heat pumps and electric boilers to decarbonize process heat in the food and beverage sector.
  • Provides corporate energy buyers with a set of concrete, actionable recommendations on how to switch to heat pumps and electric boilers at their facilities to reduce GHG emissions and realize a cleaner energy supply.

The RTC held a webinar releasing the Playbook on August 8, 2023. Watch the Recording.

Expert Webinar: Leveraging Thermal Efficiency and Heat Recovery to Accelerate Industrial Decarbonization

On Thursday, June 29 the RTC held an expert panel discussion on thermal efficiency, waste heat recovery, and related strategies as drivers and accelerators of renewable thermal deployments and industrial decarbonization. The discussion featured RTC Members and food and beverage manufacturer PespsiCo alongside Procter & Gamble and strategic thermal solutions providers Armstrong International and Thermal Energy International. Experts from these companies shared case studies and insights from their work, highlighting the critical ability of efficiency projects to enable thermal decarbonization.

Food & Beverage Working Group Kickoff Call

The RTC launched the Food and Beverage Working Group with a kickoff call on February 21, 2023. The call discussed the Working Group’s first step of collaborating with Guidehouse to create a playbook for deploying heat pumps and electric boilers in the food and beverage sector. If you missed the call, watch the recording to learn more about the scope and timeline of the playbook and about ways to engage with its development and share your challenges and needs in decarbonizing your industrial heat footprint.

Industrial Electrification in U.S. States

Created by Global Efficiency Intelligence and David Gardiner & Associates, this report to the RTC analyzes a handful of industries, including many in the food and beverage sector, and the impact electrification would have on their energy use, emissions, and energy costs in 20 different states. Factsheets outlining the specific impacts of electrification in each of these states, as well as key actions which policymakers and stakeholders can take, were published alongside the report.

Heat Pump Decision Support Tools

Heat pumps have garnered attention for their ability to utilize heat from ambient (air, water, ground) or waste heat sources, allowing companies to eliminate pollution from fossil fuel combustion and decrease energy costs across a range of geographies and industrial applications. However, many engineers lack the time and resources to undertake the preliminary studies necessary for implementation. The RTC, along with energy specialists Verco, has developed a suite of three Heat Pump Decision Support Tools to assist with these studies. The tools aim to accelerate heat pump deployment by bridging the gap between those planning to reduce emissions across multiple sites and technical engineering teams on the ground.

Solar Thermal Technology Assessment

The Assessment addresses four primary questions:

  • What is the potential of both non-concentrating and concentrating solar technology to deliver cost-effective, sustainable, low-carbon thermal energy in the short-term (by 2030) and the long-term (2050)?
  • What are the major technical, market, economic, institutional, and policy barriers impeding accelerated development and industrial deployment of solar thermal technologies?
  • What priority solutions would ensure that solar thermal technologies are sustainable, cost-competitive (especially relative to natural gas), and scalable?
  • What actions could large industrial, corporate, and institutional buyers implement, perhaps in collaboration with others, to help accelerate and scale solar thermal technologies?

Electrifying U.S. Industry

On January 27, 2021, Global Efficiency Intelligence and David Gardiner and Associates (DGA) released Electrifying U.S. Industry: A Technology and Process-Based Approach to Decarbonization, a new report to the Renewable Thermal Collaborative. The report finds that there is a significant opportunity to decarbonize the industrial sector by shifting heat production away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to clean sources such as electrification where low- or zero-carbon electricity is used.

The report reviews the major technical, economic, market, institutional, and policy barriers to scaled development and deployment of industrial electrification technologies, as well as proposals that could help to overcome these barriers. Categories of barriers and proposals include technology, knowledge and education, financing, costs, policy, and electric utility connection and reliability.

The report’s Action Plan describes actions and policy recommendations that can be taken by industry and others to scale up industrial electrification, given the state of the market and the institutional and policy environment described in the Technical Assessment.

How to get involved:

The RTC develops our work streams in collaboration with our Members and Solutions Providers. To join us in driving renewable thermal technologies forward, become a Member or Solutions Provider of the RTC. Existing Members and Solutions Providers may join this workstream at any point.

Find providers offering decarbonization solutions:


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