The Renewable Thermal Collaborative

Smoke emits from a pipe at a hydrogen production plant with mountains in the background

The Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) is the global coalition for companies, institutions, and governments committed to scaling up renewable energy for their thermal footprint, dramatically cutting carbon emissions. RTC members recognize the growing demand and need for renewable thermal energy solutions and the urgent need to meet this demand in a manner that delivers sustainable, cost-competitive options at scale.

As a coalition, the RTC offers value to members by providing “power in numbers.” The RTC is the only place to focus on renewable thermal energy solutions and where large thermal energy users come together collaboratively to understand the problems in the market, learn from each other, and overcome these barriers to renewable thermal energy solutions.

The RTC was founded in 2017 by WWF and our partners the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and David Gardiner and Associates.

What are thermal emissions and how are they driving the climate crisis?

Do you use air conditioning to cool your house or a furnace to heat it? Have you ever baked banana bread? Or boiled water for tea? Then you've used thermal energy. It is the heat (or cold) used to produce something. Thermal emissions include the greenhouse gases released from the processes of heating and cooling.

Internal structure of a larger thermal power plant with metal pieces and a bright sky

 

Why we need to transition to renewable thermal energy

Industrial thermal energy creates 12.5% of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. This is the next largest source behind transportation and electricity and more than the entire US agricultural sector. Globally, thermal energy is 50% of final energy use and contributes 39% of greenhouse gas emissions from energy-related sources. Without addressing these industrial thermal energy emissions, we have no way to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Unlike the transportation and power sectors—where renewable electricity, electric vehicles, and new mobility strategies reflect important progress over the past two decades—the industrial sector lags significantly behind. Today, renewable thermal energy solutions remain largely unavailable or cost-effective. These include sustainable, waste-derived biomass, biogas (including landfill gas), renewable natural gas (or biomethane), and renewable sources such as geothermal, industrial electrification, green hydrogen, and solar thermal. Policy support and investment are badly needed to bring these solutions to scale. Policy support and investment are badly needed to bring these solutions to scale.

Machinery inside a blast furnace with very hot materials

 

Our approach

Our bold proposal vision is to slash industrial thermal energy emissions by 30% by increasing industrial renewable thermal energy use by 20% by 2026 and 150% by 2030. The RTC approach builds upon the buyer-driven model of our successful Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, which WWF helped spin-off into a new trade association in 2019. Our bold vision is to slash industrial thermal energy emissions by 30%. We will achieve this by increasing industrial renewable thermal energy use initially by 20% by 2026 and then by 150% by 2030.

Over the next five years, the RTC will expand its initiatives to accelerate the deployment of renewable thermal solutions through four strategic levers:

  • Vision: Building greater consensus and thought leadership on how to optimize renewable thermal energy in decarbonizing US industry.
  • Community: Creating a larger and more active community that's working to scale the deployment of renewable energy thermal in the US.
  • Action: Driving increased deployment of renewable thermal energy technologies in the US by developing Technology and Sector Action Plans and Partnerships and unlocking pilot projects.
  • Policy: Using education activities to increase key federal and state policymakers' awareness of policies to help accelerate the deployment of renewable thermal energy.

Creating a transition that works for people and communities

Decarbonizing industrial heat will require significant changes in technologies, markets, business practices, and policies. This shift will create broader societal impacts beyond the companies sourcing thermal energy. To successfully drive a renewable thermal energy transition that works for people, the RTC will:

  • Listen to build bridges and better understand the needs, concerns, interests, insights, and expertise of key stakeholders, including workers in transition, environmental justice advocates, and disability inclusion advocates.
  • Learn about the impact on workers, environmental justice, and people with disabilities and how to increase and share the benefits of the renewable thermal transition.
  • Act to better incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility best practices into renewable thermal energy work as a cornerstone of the renewable thermal transition\u2019s success. This means providing training and resources for members and helping them implement best practices during pilot projects.
  • Advocate through policymaker education on a just and inclusive thermal transition, and work with experts and stakeholders to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into policy recommendations.

WWF won $10 million through the Lever for Change 2030 Challenge, a public competition to award funding to the most impactful and durable solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the buildings, industry, and/or transportation sectors in the US by 2030. The competition is supported by an anonymous donor and is administered by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the MacArthur Foundation.