Creating a Sustainable Future for Global Industry

Creating a Sustainable Future for Global Industry

May 08, 2020

Successfully implementing strategic policies in combination with technological innovation is the catalyst needed to decarbonize global industry by 2070, according to a new publication that includes a “blueprint for action”, written by a consortium of researchers including the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Decarbonizing Global Industry Graphic

The manufacturing and industrial sectors have enormous potential to contribute to energy savings and emissions reductions. New infrastructure, renewable energy resources and innovative low carbon energy technologies will play key roles in creating a more energy-efficient industrial sector with low emissions. However, a driving question is whether these technological changes are enough on their own to significantly reduce global industrial emissions within this century.

In a recent study published in Applied Energy, a consortium of researchers from many universities, industries, and NGOs, including Jeffrey Rissman from Energy Innovation, the Aspen Global Change Institute and Berkeley Lab, recommend that a combination of technological innovation and policies will be required in order to achieve net zero global industrial emissions by 2070.

Industry, defined as including all manufacturing activities, petroleum refining and construction, is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions (including indirect emissions from electricity purchased by industry). The three main strategies to reduce industry emissions are to reduce material consumption, reduce industry energy consumption and shift to clean energy sources to improve the top-emitting industries, iron-and steel, cement and chemicals and plastics, which account for over 55% of global industry emissions.

“Transitioning industries towards fully decarbonized economies presents a lot of exciting opportunities for thinking outside the box,” said Berkeley Lab International Energy Analysis Department Head Nan Zhou and Research Scientist Bill Morrow. “For example, capturing cement production's material-based CO2 emissions presents an opportunity to reuse the CO2 that will be emitted long after economies have fully decarbonized their energy systems. This is an obvious opportunity to develop new CO2-utilizing industries that will provide long-term benefits beyond the time period of industrial decarbonization.”

The researchers collaborated to evaluate technical and policy interventions that limit the global average temperature rise to below 2°C. They consider scenarios showing projections for industrial emissions based on various phases of policy and technology deployment, such as electrification, energy efficiency, use of hydrogen and carbon capture. The research team also highlighted promising technologies for the three top-emitting industries, as well as flexible technologies (such as electrification and hydrogen) that can be used by a broad array of different industries. In their framework for decarbonization of global industry from 2020 to 2070, the team projects what actions would be necessary, including the identification of key research and development areas to enable future technologies.

Policies are what will ensure adequate investment is made towards research and development of future technologies like zero-carbon hydrogen production, novel steel production techniques, efficient chemical catalysts, and more. Carbon pricing policies, as well as standards for energy efficiency and emissions for industry and support for R&D, will help accelerate the decarbonization of global industry. The research team points out that policymakers, companies and other stakeholders will need to take into account equity for labor and disadvantaged communities and complement the human and economic development of low- and middle-income countries.

 

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) Energy Technologies Area scientists have conducted research in the areas of energy efficiency and energy analysis, building science, the electricity grid, batteries, air quality, energy technologies and more. Our mission is to perform analysis, research and development to improve energy technologies.

Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit eta.lbl.govlbl.gov and energy.gov/science

Kiran Julin