REPORT: New Analysis Shows Pathways to Cut U.S. Industrial Emissions by More Than Half

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Contact: Blaine Collison, RTC Executive Director, 202-669-5950, blaine@renewablethermal.org, or Evan Carlson, WWF Communications Manager, Evan.Carlson@wwfus.org .

Arlington, VA – A new study by the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) unveiled this morning will help US industry to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2050—a 13% reduction in total US emissions. The analysis behind the study was conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in partnership with WWF, a convenor of RTC. The report focuses specifically on decarbonizing industry’s use of thermal energy, providing actionable new insights and recommending potential pathways to net zero that could result in emissions reductions up to 758 million tons of CO2e annually by mid-century.

“The RTC Vision Report provides a deep analysis of how the US can decarbonize the Industrial sector,” said Blaine Collison, RTC Executive Director. “Although the industrial sector is the third largest source of GHG emissions in the country behind transportation and energy, it has largely been overlooked to this point and we are excited to provide this analysis for how the sector can make credible progress toward net zero.”

The report examines six priority industrial sectors in the US—analyzing their thermal energy use by process, temperature (high, medium, and low), and geography. Incorporating post-Inflation Reduction Act cost projections and overlaying estimates of technology availability, the report identifies five parallel pathways to decarbonize industry by 2050. In addition, the report features six sector and eight technology deep-dives that will help corporate energy buyers and policymakers set priorities and make smarter and more timely investment decisions to meet near- medium- and long-term decarbonization goals.

The five parallel pathways for decarbonizing industrial heat are:

  • Electrify industry processes: Electrify low- and medium- temperature processes with cost competitive technologies such as heat pumps and electric steam boilers and deploy other electric resistance technologies in medium-high temperature processes.
  • Green the grid: Use virtual power purchase agreements and other high impact renewable power procurement methods to accelerate the transition to a carbon free electric grid to meet industrial green electricity needs.
  • Deploy renewable fuels: Deploy sustainable and waste-derived Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and biomass as supply constraints allow, and develop and scale green hydrogen use for high-heat industrial process.
  • Deploy renewable technologies: Scale solar thermal, thermal storage paired with low-cost intermittent renewables, and clean technology combinations such as heat pumps with geothermal and solar thermal.
  • Capture and store carbon: Deploy carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture as a short- and medium-term lever in specific sectors. Phase down CCS as industry transitions to clean processes. Develop and deploy BECCS (bio-energy with CCS) for new and existing biomass combustion.

“We’re excited to offer a perspective on advancing decarbonization of industrial heat generation – an opportunity in particular in the low and medium temperature range where deployment of low-emission heat sources actually turn out to be financially and environmentally sound for many industrial applications in most states.  This a key part of our journey towards global net zero,” said Cornelius Pieper, Managing Director & Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group.

“Mars is excited about this important contribution that will assist our efforts to decarbonize our operations, value chain and the world at large,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, Global VP Sustainability, Mars Inc. “The Vision Report provides new and actionable insights that will help the organization, and others like it, tackle an important component of our emissions and ultimately meet our goals.”

“The report highlights the need for strategic deployment of renewable thermal technologies which need to be both economical and accessible as industry works towards a decarbonized future,” said Rob Threlkeld, Senior, Global Energy Strategy Manager, General Motors.

“Diageo views renewable thermal solutions as a critical component of the portfolio of investments needed to decarbonize our North American footprint and deliver our 2030 goals.” said Jayant Kairam, Vice President, Society, Diageo North America. “The Renewable Thermal Vision Report will help provide greater understanding of new emissions reductions insights and technologies that will help fill crucial information gaps for our decarbonization strategy.”

“At Procter & Gamble we work with a large ecosystem of partners and believe collaboration is key in the development of industry standard solutions that are modular and scalable,” said Steve Skarda, Procter & Gamble Climate Technology Innovation Senior Director. “The Renewable Thermal Vision report is a great example of the value we can achieve when we join forces across companies to tackle our biggest challenges on climate change.   The report will help accelerate our work as we continue progress towards our Ambition to achieve Net Zero GHG emissions across our operations.”

“This new thermal energy vision report from RTC fills an important gap in our collective understanding of the thermal energy challenge and how Pepsico and others can tackle it in our own operations and with our suppliers,” said Roberta Barbieri, VP Global Sustainability, Pepsico.

“The Renewable Thermal Collaborative Vision is exactly what industries need today for in depth insights on the latest technology and fuel options,” said Lynn Lyon, Director Sustainable Transportation, US Gain. “The Collaborative is at the forefront guiding companies through the maze of challenges and opportunities to decrease thermal emissions on their path to decarbonization goals. I appreciate working with the leaders from across the value chain that are taking action now.”

The sector deep dives include chemicals, iron and steel, food, paper, cement, and refineries. They identify specific renewable thermal energy solutions suitable for typical processes in these sectors and cost competitive solutions in states where these sector emissions are concentrated. The technology deep dives cover heat pumps, solar thermal, waste biomass, thermal storage, electric resistance, RNG, clean hydrogen and CCS. The technology deep dives provide specifics on the cost analysis and deployment considerations and identify priority states and sectors for deployment. The main report and detailed sector and technology slide packs are available for download on the RTC website.

Here’s what other RTC members and sponsors are saying about the Renewable Thermal Vision Report:

“This comprehensive analysis reinforces the ambitious strategy the University of California has charted to reach its goal to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2025. It is a compelling roadmap demonstrating how a key sector—industry—can deploy decarbonization solutions in a tangible, cost-effective, and rapid way.” Sam Schabacker, Renewable Energy Manager, University of California, Office of the President

“Renewable thermal solutions are a critical part of the decarbonization journey for our large industrial clients that are committed to their net zero goals. We are thrilled to be working with the RTC and excited about the advancements in the renewable thermal market and the analysis presented in the new report.” Charlie Daum, Managing Director, Alturus

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