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Industrial firms produce the materials and products we rely on every day, like steel, cement, paper, and plastics. They are a key part of the economy that provides millions of well-paying jobs, but industry is also responsible for one third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. If we don’t cut carbon pollution from industry, we don’t solve climate change. And companies that don’t adapt will fall behind in the global marketplace.

Our Industry Program work focuses on promising technologies and well-designed policy that enables a zero-carbon industrial sector globally. Three industries – iron and steel, chemicals and plastics, and cement – produce roughly 60 percent of industrial emissions, and the top ten industries generate 90 percent of industrial emissions, so focusing on these industries drives outsized results.

Technological innovations are only part of the picture. Strategic, well-designed policies incentivize adoption of low-carbon manufacturing technology while making investments in clean processes more profitable. These policies include well-designed carbon pricing, support for research and developmentindustrial energy efficiencyindustrial process emissions standards, and green government procurement programs.

Our Work

Energy Innovation’s Industry Program provides best-in-class advice to policymakers, regulators, and industry on the most efficient and cost-effective technologies that can reduce industrial emissions to zero and policies to accelerate their deployment. We make recommendations compatible with equity and economic development goals, which are crucial for adoption worldwide.

Original Analysis

In February 2024, the Industry program will release a book, Zero-Carbon Industry: Transformative Technologies and Policies to Achieve Sustainable Prosperity.  Published by Columbia University Press, Zero-Carbon Industry will be the definitive guide to the breakthrough technologies transforming the manufacturing sector and the policies that can accelerate the global transition to clean industry. The book illustrates the scope of the challenge, diving into the workings of heavy polluters like steel, chemicals, plastics, cement, and concrete. It identifies ways to affordably decarbonize manufacturing, such as electrifying industrial processes, using hydrogen, and improving energy and material efficiency. But technologies are only part of the picture. Enacting the right policies―including financial incentives, research and development support, well-designed carbon pricing, efficiency and emissions standards, and green public procurement―can spur investment and hasten emissions reductions. Zero-Carbon Industry provides the world’s first roadmap to understanding the monumental task of decarbonizing the industrial sector and lays out the solutions in a tractable and compelling fashion.

Also in 2024, we will release an open-source Industrial Decarbonization Calculator that allows users to employ a range of strategies to eliminate industrial emissions, such as different approaches to supplying industrial heat and creating chemical feedstocks. It calculates the resource requirements of the chosen decarbonization pathway, including electricity demand, bioenergy land use requirements, required hydrogen electrolyzer capacity, annual CO2 storage capacity, and so forth. The tool has built-in data for five regions: the U.S., China, India, the EU, and the globe as a whole. It will provide key insights about the need for energy and material efficiency, the efficiency of direct electrification of industrial heating, and the importance of reserving hydrogen and bioenergy for high-value uses.

Other forthcoming analyses include a joint paper with Agora Industry and Fraunhofer Institute on electrification of industrial heat in Europe and a joint paper with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and China’s Energy Research Institute on electrification of industrial heat in China.

Our team has published a number of research reports.  In 2023, we released Industrial Thermal Batteries: Decarbonizing U.S. Industry While Supporting A High Renewables Grid, a groundbreaking report on a new industrial electrification technology with the potential to cut industrial firms’ electricity costs by 50-66% while helping to balance the electric grid.  The report raised awareness of this important, new technology and received widespread media coverage, including a link in the New York Times.

In 2022, we published Decarbonizing Low-Temperature Industrial Heat In The U.S., a report highlighting the emissions and economic benefits of industrial heat pumps for providing process heat up to 165 C.  This comprehensive analysis identified heat pumps’ potential to supply energy and reduce emissions, heat pump manufacturers, and provided extensive recommendations for supportive policies, including research and development aid, financial support, and energy and emissions standards.

In 2020, the Industry Program led development of a groundbreaking review paper, along with 30 expert co-authors, to serve as an authoritative resource on industrial decarbonization. Technologies and Policies to Decarbonize Global Industry: Review and Assessment of Mitigation Drivers Through 2070 lays out a detailed pathway to zero industrial emissions, demonstrating how existing technologies, along with a suite of smart policies, can rapidly reduce industrial emissions and make investing in cleaner industrial processes more profitable


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The Industry Program Team

Industry Topics

China Program

China is the world’s largest emitter of climate pollution, responsible for more than a quarter of global emissions – if China doesn’t cut emissions, the whole world fails on climate change.

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Electrification

Replacing technologies and systems that run on fossil fuels with alternatives like electric vehicles, heat pumps, and induction stoves that run on clean electricity is a proven way to reduce pollution and decarbonize the economy. Scaling up electrification across sectors requires a multi-faceted approach at the federal, state, and local levels.

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Modeling and Analysis

Energy Policy Solutions The Modeling and Analysis Program delivers quantitative policy insights and detailed policy design guidance directly to policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders. This includes developing our in-house model, the Energy Policy Simulator, and propagating policy design insights from…

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