World Wildlife Fund Sustainability Works

RTC Shares Insights from Renewable Thermal Vision Report at Capitol Hill Briefing

  • Date: 09 August 2023
  • Author: Daniel Riley, Director, International Corporate Climate Partnerships, WWF

Last week, the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) briefed Capitol Hill stakeholders on key insights of its Renewable Thermal Vision Report and the role federal policymakers can play in unlocking critical pathways to decarbonize industry and cut emissions to reach net zero by 2050.

The industrial sector produces 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and industry’s use of thermal energy (heating and cooling) to create many of the products we use in our everyday lives accounts for nearly half of that number.

With the impacts of climate change becoming ever more dangerous, we must address every source of emissions that causes climate change, and one of the ways we can make real progress is by prioritizing the conversion of low and medium heat processes in the industrial sector to renewable energy. Though ambitious, undertaking the actions this would require stands to have tremendous impact–potentially reducing thermal emissions by nearly 80%.

The RTC discussed the urgent need for the decarbonization of industrial heating with stakeholders on Capitol Hill, with a leadership panel featuring Ali Ahmed (Boston Consulting Group), Blaine Collison (David Gardiner and Associates), Daniel Riley (World Wildlife Fund), and Rose Luttenberger (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions).

The report identifies actionable insights to decarbonize industry by 2050 through five parallel pathways:

  1. Electrification of industry processes
    • Electrifying low- and medium- temperature processes with cost-competitive technologies—such as heat pumps and electric steam boilers—and deploying electric resistance technologies in medium-high temperature processes
  2. Greening the grid
    • Using virtual power purchase agreements and other high-impact renewable power procurement methods will allow for the acceleration of the transition to a carbon-free electric grid, helping industries meet their green electricity needs.
  3. Deploying renewable fuels
    • Deploying sustainable and waste-derived Renewable Natural Gas and biomass—as supply constraints allow—and developing and scaling green hydrogen use in high-heat industrial processes.
  4. Deploying renewable technologies
    • Scaling solar thermal, thermal storage paired with low-cost intermittent renewables, and clean technology combinations such as heat pumps with geothermal and solar thermal.
  5. Capturing and storing carbon
    • Policies to decarbonize industry through renewable thermal solutions have lagged behind policies in the power generation and transportation sectors. Policymakers can close this gap and attain meaningful gains by (1) deploying carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture as a short- and medium-term lever in specific sectors, (2) phasing down CCS as industry transitions to clean processes, and (3) developing and deploying bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECSS) for new and existing biomass combustion.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) made some significant investments in industrial decarbonization; however, analyses show that the IRA is likely to have only modest impacts on industrial emissions through 2030. There are also concerns it does not adequately incentivize the full range of renewable thermal solutions.

Additional federal policy will be necessary to accelerate progress along the five pathways, in particular, policies that:

  1. Accelerate industrial electrification through:
    • Creating new tax incentives for production and use for various technologies (such as heat pumps and thermal storage).
    • Supporting robust funding for demonstrations of technology to support uptake and workforce development to deploy and service those technologies.
  2. Address clean hydrogen market challenges by:
    • Filling in missing pieces in the hydrogen market, such as providing funding for the planning and development of transportation and storage infrastructure.
    • Supporting market development through tax incentives for buyers to use hydrogen at their facilities.
    • Using innovative government procurement to ensure early market development of hydrogen.
  3. Champion long-term incentives for other renewable thermal technologies and fuels by: 
    • Ensuring all thermal technologies under Section 48 ITC are extended beyond 2024, including solar thermal, geothermal, and RNG.

The full report also offers in-depth analysis into key industrial sectors to help corporate energy buyers and policymakers set priorities and take informed, smart, and timely actions to meet near-, medium-, and long-term decarbonization goals. Additional support for industry is available on RTC’s website in the form of case studies, reports, and other tools.

Check back here for more information and insights from the RTC’s upcoming Annual Summit, where the organization will delve deeper into this topic and host action-oriented discussions with stakeholders across the spectrum.


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