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Technology Today - Clean Heat Pathways to Decarbonise Industry

Technology Today

The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions is examining the potential for innovative pathways to create and re-use heat energy as indispensable strategies to reducing emissions from the industrial sector. The latest C2ES “Closer Look” brief, Clean Heat Pathways for Industrial De-carbonisation , explores the strongest options for reducing heat-related emissions, including hydrogen combustion, induction, and resistance heating and identifies policies that can advance them.

“The devastating effects of Hurricane Ida and the latest assessment report from the IPCC are reminders that our planet is in crisis,” said C2ES President Nat Keohane. “We can see clear pathways for significant near-term reductions in the electric power sector and we have the technology for reductions in transportation emissions the coming decade. But we need to pay far more attention to decarbonising the industrial sector and our means to generate heat for them.”

Industry is currently the third-largest emitting sector in the United States, responsible for more than 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019, according to the latest EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Without policy action over the next decade, emissions from this sector could soon exceed those of the power and transportation sectors.

Clean Heat Pathways for Industrial Decarbonisation, identifies three options for reducing heat-related emissions - shifting to cleaner fuels, capturing emissions, and minimising energy requirements. The brief explores the emissions reduction potential and challenges of each option, including with respect to heat characteristics (e.g., the ability to reach the temperature levels needed in different industries) and commercial readiness (e.g., cost, availability, necessary infrastructure).

The brief also identifies key federal policies that will stimulate innovation and provide the necessary financial incentives to overcome cost and other barriers, citing needs in several key policy areas - 

  • Innovation - additional investment in research, development, and demonstration of clean heat technologies (particularly ones that could be used in the highest-emitting sectors), as well as expanded pilot programs and improved access for businesses to the technical expertise in the national labs
  • Deployment - tax incentives and technical assistance to overcome cost-competitiveness challenges and perceived risks in deploying less established technologies
  • Carbon pricing - a price signal to the market that would make clean heat technologies more cost-competitive, while giving industries the flexibility and time to find opportunities to innovate
  • Standards and regulations - measures to drive or require the industrial sector to produce a certain amount of its heat from clean energy sources. 
  • Competitiveness - measures, such as border carbon adjustments, to protect the global competitiveness of American industries adopting clean heat technologies.

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