- Isabell Berry
A Beautiful Partnership - Clean Steam Powered by Decarbonized Energy
Updated: Jan 16
The key to achieving Net Zero will be finding new ways to heat and power industrial processes
What is Heat Decarbonization? The decarbonization of heat refers to reducing the amount of carbon produced by heating systems. This involves switching to low carbon heating systems in order to provide homes and businesses with 'clean' heat to meet NetZero goals. Fuel options being studied to produce electricity include solar, biofuels, wind, waves, rain, nuclear, tidal, geothermal and more. Using electricity created by a low carbon source to heat steam, to heat buildings, and power mechanical processes or sterilize instruments means that the entire system is clean and green.
Recent studies have shown that in most markets reaching 50 to 60% decarbonization of the power system can be achieved easily by 2040. Reaching 80 to 90% by 2040 would be much more difficult and the last 10% would be a significant investment in time and money. Although 50-60% obviously would be a huge improvement, it is not enough. The UK has committed to Net Zero carbon for heat by 2050. Only by creating and supporting those types of stretch goals will we stand a chance to change enough to make a real difference and only if all stakeholders participate.
In order to make energy and heat decarbonization a reality there need to be many changes at many levels
Organizations (including developers and investors of future businesses) need to incorporate this into their thinking and planning right away. It is in their best interest from a financial perspective now (many so-called alternative fuel sources have come way down in price) and in the future (when regulatory requirements will require them to transition anyway).
Politicians need to create realistic, easy to understand regulations and incentives for organizations to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. It has to be a carrot and stick approach and it’s not going to be popular with everyone. We need government to stick to their guns and put the future of the planet first.
Innovators need to continue to push themselves to find new ways or improve current alternatives to overcome the hurdles to adoption. Make retrofit projects and green energy more convenient and less costly both at inception and in the long term (no one wants landfills full of batteries and toxic solar panels either).
The US Department of Energy has put together an “Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap” and believes it is critical to labour and equity goals and American administration has pledged that 40% of overall benefits will be delivered to disadvantaged communities. Energy efficiency is a foundational, crosscutting decarbonization strategy and is the most cost-effective option for GHG emission reductions in the near term. In addition, electricity generation is the single biggest contributor to climate change, responsible for 30% of all greenhouse emissions. Carbon-free energy certainly promises a myriad of benefits. It is necessary for us to explore multiple sources though. Green energy is notoriously unreliable, what do solar powered processes do on cloudy days? And wind power on still days? Plus biofuel, hydrogen, and nuclear all have their drawbacks.
The impetus will continue to be on the government to fund the heat decarbonization research and development and regulate the use of these alternative fuel sources, all of which can create steam which is and always has been an extraordinarily clean and powerful renewable energy.