For Immediate Release
October 5, 2023
New Report Highlights the Role Thermal Batteries Can Play in the Clean Energy Transition
The Renewable Thermal Collaborative Report Provides Considerations for Accelerating Decarbonization of Industrial Heat with Electricity-Powered Thermal Batteries
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Electricity-powered thermal batteries have the potential to displace nearly all greenhouse gas emissions from industrial heat – a sizable portion of overall U.S. emissions – and achieve costs at or below fossil fuels, according to the Thermal Batteries: Opportunities to Accelerate Decarbonization of Industrial Heat report released today by the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC). The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and The Brattle Group developed the report on behalf of the RTC.
Currently, industrial process heat is supplied primarily by burning natural gas, and to a lesser extent, other fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. This produces industrial emissions that have been technologically challenging and expensive to decarbonize, given the lack of low-cost, clean fuel alternatives and competitive pressures that limit companies’ ability to recover costs. Historically, there has not been an obvious way to source low-cost energy and achieve the high temperatures needed.
Thermal batteries, an electricity-driven form of thermal energy storage, convert off-grid or on- grid renewable electricity into steam or direct heat for immediate use or for long-duration storage with common solid materials such as bricks, carbon blocks, or rocks.
“There are so many ‘wins’ when it comes to thermal battery technology,” remarked Blaine Collison, RTC Executive Director. “It is clean and straightforward, has a very high efficiency rating, is cost-competitive, and uses renewable electricity directly. This report is exciting and relevant to our members – leading U.S. and global manufacturers who are all working to decarbonize their thermal energy use – and to industry generally because thermal batteries offer compelling deployment opportunities now.”
The report is intended as a resource for large corporate energy buyers and other key market and policy stakeholders. It specifically assesses the role thermal batteries can play in the clean energy transition, evaluates its cost competitiveness against current fuel sources, and examines current barriers to expanded deployment. It also provides recommendations to overcome the barriers to accelerate deployment of the technology.
“More than anything else to date, this new report helps energy buyers understand that electrifying high-temperature heat is within reach with thermal batteries, as well as the factors at play that will make this technology cost-effective for their own operations,” said Chris Kardish, C2ES Senior Manager of Industrial Decarbonization, who led the report. “There are many places even today with enough low-cost renewable electricity to unlock thermal batteries, and other energy markets will catch up. To fully maximize and access that renewable electricity though, we’re going to need utilities and grid operators to enact some reforms, which we detail in the report. Doing so will mean more balance to the power grid, more renewables on the ground, more business for utilities, and lower emissions from the U.S. industrial sector.”
The report identifies three key takeaways for energy buyers and other stakeholders to consider to accelerate the deployment of thermal batteries:
For energy buyers: Evaluate thermal batteries with a focus on the different electricity supply options and the regulatory environment. The key to determining the cost-effectiveness of thermal batteries for end users will be the on-grid or off-grid options for determining renewable electricity supply in their electricity market, as well as regulatory barriers and utility rate structures.
For state policymakers and public utility commissions: Adopt modern industrial electricity rate structures. Many of the key aspects of electricity tariffs, such as transmission and distribution costs, do not incentivize large energy buyers to shift usage to off-peak hours when renewable electricity is cheap and abundant, which prevents flexible demand sources like thermal batteries from providing value to the grid and industrial users.
For wholesale power market operators: Develop viable participation models for thermal batteries to access wholesale electricity prices. To fully enable thermal batteries, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and regional wholesale market operators will need to adopt rules that allow the technology to be treated similarly to electrochemical storage, with access to energy, capacity, and ancillary markets.
“Our analysis illustrates that thermal batteries can offer states and companies a viable pathway to cost-effectively electrify and decarbonize industrial heating at large scale, as long as customers can access wholesale markets and principled utility rate structures,” noted Kathleen Spees, Brattle Group Principal. “Beyond the direct decarbonization benefits, thermal batteries can provide grid flexibility and balancing services that will be badly needed in regions pursuing high levels of renewable deployment.”
Download the report at https://www.renewablethermal.org/tes-assessment-report.
Ben Finzel (for RTC)
About the Thermal Batteries: Opportunities to Accelerate Decarbonization of Industrial Heat Report Partners
Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) is a global coalition of companies, institutions, and governments committed to helping reach midcentury climate goals by scaling up renewable heating and cooling technologies at their facilities to dramatically reduce their carbon emissions. The RTC collaborates with its members and sponsors to accelerate industrial decarbonization by addressing and identifying ways to overcome the technology, policy, and market challenges that large thermal energy users face. Visit https://www.renewablethermal.org/ to learn more.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) works to secure a safe and stable climate, by accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a thriving, just, and resilient economy. Learn more at https://www.c2es.org.
Brattle Group answers complex economic, finance, and regulatory questions for corporations, law firms, and governments around the world. They have 500 employees across four continents and affiliations with leading international academics and industry specialists. Learn more at https://www.brattle.com/.
Statements on the Report from RTC Thermal Energy Storage Sponsors
Andrew Ponec, Co-Founder & CEO, Antora Energy
“Cheap renewable energy has opened up an incredible opportunity to decarbonize industry, and thermal batteries are the key that unlocks this opportunity. As Antora deploys our modular, factory-built thermal batteries at scale, this report provides a critical roadmap for accelerating the path to – and lowering the cost of – industrial decarbonization.”
Gadi Sharir, U.S. Managing Director, Brenmiller Energy
“The industrial sector tends to be conservative when adopting new technologies for their complex, mission-critical operations. Rather than piloting emerging or unproven solutions, they seek reliable, commercially available technologies capable of generating cost-competitive electric heat to replace natural gas. Thermal energy storage increasingly meets these criteria, especially when systems can participate in local power markets, as is the case in Europe. This capability has driven substantial interest in thermal storage as a fossil fuel boiler replacement. We’re pleased to have been able to contribute our 10+ years of global learnings to the Renewable Thermal Collaborative’s report and look forward to helping grow the market for thermal energy storage in the U.S.”
Daniel Stack, CEO, Electrified Thermal Solutions
“What’s so exciting about the RTES report is that it lays out clearly that simply by updating electricity tariffs and wholesale power market rules to fully account for the enormous benefits of dispatchable thermal loads, we can unleash cost-effective decarbonization of industrial heat in the US.”
John O’Donnell, CEO, Rondo Energy
“This study could not come at a better time. Rondo is now operating, developing, and delivering heat batteries around the world. This critically needed study explores the opportunities, needs, and challenges for businesses, investors, and governments to put these new power tools to work, creating one of the great business opportunities of our time and solving one of the greatest challenges of all time.”