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Zero-Carbon Industry is 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 was supported by Energy Innovation and will be published by Columbia University Press in February 2024.

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Praise for
Zero-Carbon Industry

“For those who hear the words ‘climate change’ and picture dirty power plants and fossil fuel pipelines, read this book. It opened my eyes and will open yours to the fact that the industrial sector is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. So, what do we do? Read this book. Rissman explores the new technologies, processes, and policies that could—with continued investment in research and development—transform the relatively small set of industries responsible for the lion’s share of this sector’s emissions into the economic engines of the future.”

—GINA MCCARTHY, former U.S. national climate advisor and former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


“Tired of all the gloomy climate projections? Take a look at Jeffrey Rissman’s book. He gives a clear-eyed account of all the major greenhouse gas-emitting processes, products, technologies, and industries and describes how each can be transformed. Rissman considers the science, technology, economics, and policy to show the way. He finds optimism in the details.”

—DR. RUSH D. HOLT, former member of Congress and CEO emeritus, American Association for the Advancement of Science


“Jeffrey Rissman takes on the most formidable of all climate goals: the complete elimination of fossil fuels employed by industrial processes. The emitter of one-third of all greenhouse gases is quickly becoming the innovator. With scholarship and elan, Zero-Carbon Industry describes the brilliant, practical, and step-by-step pathways that will achieve this goal.”

—PAUL HAWKEN, executive director of Project Regeneration and author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming


“Decarbonizing industry is the last, hardest, and most critical task for staving off the worst effects of climate change. But it’s a solvable problem, and Rissman is the right person to walk us through the suite of options and pathways to do just that. Ambitious in scope, straightforward in its approach, analytical in its bearing, nuanced in its details, and optimistic in its intent, this book lays out a blueprint for how to get there.”

—MICHAEL E. WEBBER, professor in energy resources at the University of Texas at Austin, former chief science and technology officer at Engie SA, and author of Power Trip: The Story of Energy

The Road to Clean Industry


Explore the many ways that the industrial sector can make a sustainable, robust, and profitable transition to an emissions-free future.

Three top-emitting industries are profiled, but the technologies and policies discussed can decarbonize the entire industrial sector, not just the three profiled industries.

Industries

Chapter 1

Iron and Steel →

Learn how new and recycled steel are produced from iron ore and about the new technologies capable of reducing steelmaking emissions.

Technologies

Chapter 4

Energy Efficiency →

Key technologies to reduce energy use and optimize industrial production, the reasons companies underinvest in them, and how to incentivize such investments.

Policies

Chapter 9

Carbon Pricing and Other Financial Policies →

How to use carbon pricing, low-cost financing, and fiscal incentives as policy tools for clean industry.

Chapter 2

Chemicals →

Discover how the chemical industry uses fossil fuels as energy and feedstocks, as well as solutions to lower the industry’s CO2 and non-CO2 emissions.

Chapter 5

Material Efficiency, Substitution, and Circular Economy →

Reducing carbon-intensive materials demand through innovations in efficiency, materials used, and product lifecycles.

Chapter 10

Standards and Green Public Procurement →

How well-designed standards and governmental procurement programs can stimulate clean industry innovation.

Chapter 3

Cement and Concrete →

Solutions for decarbonizing the cement industry, from energy efficiency and electrical heating to alternative cement chemistries and carbon capture.

Chapter 6

Electrification →

A comprehensive look at replacing fossil fuel combustion with clean electricity, as well as an exploration of electrical technologies’ efficiency benefits.

Chapter 11

R&D, Disclosure, Labeling, and Circular Economy Policies →

Policies to support R&D, industrial emissions disclosure, and optimizing the use of industrial products and materials.

Chapter 7

Hydrogen and Other Renewable Fuels →

How production and use of zero-carbon hydrogen, hydrogen-derived fuels, and bioenergy can displace fossil fuels.

Chapter 12

Equity and Human Development →

How the global transition to clean industry can facilitate equity, help struggling communities, and promote human well-being.

Chapter 8

Carbon Capture and Use or Storage →

Current and upcoming solutions for capturing, storing, and utilizing carbon from industrial sources.

Industries

Chapter 1

Iron and Steel →

Learn how new and recycled steel are produced from iron ore and about the new technologies capable of reducing steelmaking emissions.

Chapter 2

Chemicals →

Discover how the chemical industry uses fossil fuels as energy and feedstocks, as well as solutions to lower the industry’s CO2 and non-CO2 emissions.

Chapter 3

Cement and Concrete →

Solutions for decarbonizing the cement industry, from energy efficiency and electrical heating to alternative cement chemistries and carbon capture.

Technologies

Chapter 4

Energy Efficiency →

Key technologies to reduce energy use and optimize industrial production, the reasons companies underinvest in them, and how to incentivize such investments.

Chapter 5

Material Efficiency, Substitution, and Circular Economy →

Reducing carbon-intensive materials demand through innovations in efficiency, materials used, and product lifecycles.

Chapter 6

Electrification →

A comprehensive look at replacing fossil fuel combustion with clean electricity, as well as an exploration of electrical technologies’ efficiency benefits.

Chapter 7

Hydrogen and Other Renewable Fuels →

How production and use of zero-carbon hydrogen, hydrogen-derived fuels, and bioenergy can displace fossil fuels.

Chapter 8

Carbon Capture and Use or Storage →

Current and upcoming solutions for capturing, storing, and utilizing carbon from industrial sources.

Policies

Chapter 9

Carbon Pricing and Other Financial Policies →

How to use carbon pricing, low-cost financing, and fiscal incentives as policy tools for clean industry.

Chapter 10

Standards and Green Public Procurement →

How well-designed standards and governmental procurement programs can stimulate clean industry innovation.

Chapter 11

R&D, Disclosure, Labeling, and Circular Economy Policies →

Policies to support R&D, industrial emissions disclosure, and optimizing the use of industrial products and materials.

Chapter 12

Equity and Human Development →

How the global transition to clean industry can facilitate equity, help struggling communities, and promote human well-being.

Zero-Carbon Industry delivers a roadmap for decision-makers who want actionable solutions to industrial emissions. The detailed three-phase plan starts with forward-thinking investments in research and support for clean and efficient energy deployment as industrial facilities become electrified. The last phase includes global initiatives to help all countries accelerate their growing industries in a sustainable and innovative fashion.

Download the clean industry roadmap
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Chapter Highlights


Take a look at some of the biggest takeaways and the depth and breadth of topics covered in Zero-Carbon Industry.

Introduction: What Is Zero-Carbon Industry?

The 3 largest-emitting industries—iron & steel, chemicals, and nonmetallic minerals (primarily cement)—account for 59% of all industrial emissions worldwide.

Great progress is being made on cutting GHG emissions from transportation, buildings, and electricity generation, but the transition to clean industry lags behind. Industrial firms are responsible for a third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions associated with electricity and steam purchased by industry, so efficiently and cost-effectively reducing industrial emissions is crucial. Fortunately, exciting technologies such as energy and material efficiency, direct electrification, hydrogen, and carbon capture, supported by smart policy, can bring industrial emissions down to zero while creating jobs and promoting equity and human well-being. This transition will provide enduring economic strength, secure a livable future climate, and achieve lasting prosperity for generations to come.

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector and Emissions Type in 2019

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector and Emissions Type in 2019 Chart

Emissions from generating purchased electricity or heat (i.e., steam) are assigned to the purchasing sector. In this book, the industry sector includes all manufacturing and construction activities. Emissions from transporting input materials or finished products are part of transportation, not industry. Industry does not include agricultural operations or emissions associated with waste (e.g., landfills and water treatment plants). It also excludes fugitive emissions (methane leaks), which predominantly come from wells and natural gas distribution networks.

Iron and Steel

Steelmaking accounts for roughly 8% of the world’s energy use.

This chapter explores the process of making primary (non-recycled) steel from iron ore using a blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace, as well as the less GHG emissions-intensive practice of making secondary (recycled) steel with electric arc furnaces. New technologies capable of transforming steelmaking are emerging, including hydrogen-based direct reduced iron, aqueous electrolysis of iron ore, and molten oxide electrolysis.

Processes and Material Flows in Iron and Steelmaking

Processes and Material Flows in Iron and Steelmaking Chart

Energy and flux inputs are shown only for the four main furnace types. Percentages (in yellow boxes) indicate the share of iron or steel made via each technological route in 2019.

Chemicals

70% of fossil fuels used by the chemical industry are used as feedstocks, chemically transformed to become part of the output products, while the remaining 30% are burned for energy.

This chapter provides an overview of the chemicals industry, including the major chemical products (e.g., ammonia, ethylene) and their end uses (fertilizer, plastics, etc.). Chemical manufacturing uses fossil fuels both as energy and as feedstocks, wherein the fuels are chemically transformed to become part of the output products. Promising new technological options for chemicals production include improved catalysts and catalytic cracking of hydrocarbons, zero-carbon hydrogen, alternative chemical pathways, and biomanufacturing. This chapter also tackles solutions to the chemicals industry’s emissions of non-CO2 GHGs, including fluorinated gases and nitrous oxide.

Nonfeedstock Energy Use by the U.S. Chemicals Industry in 2018

Nonfeedstock Energy Use by the U.S. Chemicals Industry in 2018 Chart

Energy use is disaggregated by chemical product (left) and end use within chemicals industry facilities (right). “Ammonia & fertilizers” includes production of all ammonia and related chemicals (urea, nitric acid), even when not used for fertilizer.

Cement and Concrete

After cement is put into service, it gradually absorbs atmospheric CO2 in a process called carbonation. Over decades, it absorbs roughly half the non-energy-related CO2 created during its production.

Cement and concrete are the most-used manufactured materials in the world, responsible for 7% of global CO2 emissions. Cement-making relies on energy-intensive, high temperature precalciners and kilns, currently heated by fossil fuel combustion, and also emits CO2 from breaking down limestone to form clinker, cement’s main ingredient. Solutions for decarbonizing cement-making include efficient energy use, electrical heating via plasma torches, alternative cement chemistries that require lower temperatures and emit less non-energy CO2, mechanisms to use cement and concrete more efficiently, and integration with carbon capture.

Global Average Concrete, Cement, and Clinker Composition in 2014

Global Average Concrete, Cement, and Clinker Composition in 2014 Chart

Concrete composition shares are by volume. Cement and clinker composition shares are by mass. In cement, “8 percent limestone” refers to uncalcined limestone, while the “66 percent clinker” is largely derived from calcined limestone, described later in the chapter.

Energy Efficiency

Cost-effective energy efficiency measures (based on energy savings alone, not GHG abatement) could reduce global industrial energy intensity by 44% from 2018 to 2040.

This chapter explores the vast potential to reduce energy use by optimizing industrial production systems, including individual pieces of equipment, flows of energy and material between parts of the manufacturing process, and business and product design decisions. Key technologies include heat recovery, efficient steam systems, right-sizing equipment for expected load, and designing equipment to respond intelligently to varying loads. Non-thermal technologies can reduce energy requirements, such as membrane separation of fluids, and solar heat can be used to drive industrial processes. Despite their cost-effectiveness, energy-efficient technologies are not always implemented; this chapter discusses why companies may underinvest in these technologies and highlights ways to incentivize investment.

Year-Over-Year Change in Global Industrial Energy Intensity

Year-Over-Year Change in Global Industrial Energy Intensity Chart

Changes in final energy intensity are due partly to technical energy efficiency improvements and partly to changes in the structure of the global economy; that is, industries with lower energy intensities accounting for a larger share of total industrial economic output (revenue).

Material Efficiency, Substitution, and Circular Economy

Recycling material instead of producing new material reduces lifecycle GHG emissions by 35-40% for paper, 45-55% for glass and plastics, and 50-85% for metals.

Introducing strategies to reduce the demand for new, carbon-intensive materials without adversely affecting the quality of products or services delivered, this chapter covers material efficiency, material substitution, and circular economy. Material efficiency encompasses a variety of techniques, such as precise application of materials, AI-aided design, and digitalization to eliminate material use. Material substitution involves using low-carbon materials, such as wood or bioplastics, instead of higher-carbon materials like steel, concrete, and traditional plastic. Circular economy puts products and materials to their best possible use at each stage of their lifecycles, such as by designing products for longevity and repairability, re-using components, recycling to harvest raw materials, and using product sharing systems to fully utilize existing products.

An Illustrative Diagram of Material Flows in a Circular Economy

An Illustrative Diagram of Material Flows in a Circular Economy Chart

A circular economy puts a product to its best use at each stage of its life cycle.

Electrification

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that commercialized technologies could directly electrify 78% of non-feedstock European industrial energy demand.

Replacing fossil fuel combustion with clean electricity is a crucial technique to reduce industrial emissions, particularly to supply process heat, such as producing steam, melting metal, and driving chemical reactions. A multitude of electrical heating technologies, including electrical resistance, induction heating, electric arcs, dielectric heating, and lasers, are well-suited to meet a wide array of industrial heat needs. Electricity can allow for precision application of heat, as in laser sintering and arc welding, or non-thermal alternatives to heat, such as ultraviolet light and electrolysis. While electricity may often have a higher cost per unit energy than fossil fuels, the efficiency benefits of electrical technologies can greatly reduce or eliminate fossil fuels’ current cost advantage.

Uses of Fossil Fuels and Electricity by U.S. Industry in 2018

Uses of Fossil Fuels and Electricity by U.S. Industry in 2018 Chart

“Machine drive” includes pumps, conveyor belts, fans, robots, and other moving elements of production processes. “Other processes” includes electrochemistry and miscellaneous processes. “Nonprocess uses” include heating, cooling, and lighting buildings for the comfort of workers, using vehicles to transport items around an industrial site, and the like. The figure excludes energy whose fuel type and end use were not reported (including biomass and waste, as well as steam purchased from external suppliers, such as district heating plants).

Hydrogen and Other Renewable Fuels

In 2018, 69 Mt of hydrogen was produced in dedicated production facilities, and 48 Mt was produced as a byproduct from blast furnaces, steam crackers, and other industrial equipment. 85% of hydrogen is consumed at the site where it was produced.

Chemical feedstocks and certain other industrial inputs are not able to be directly electrified; for decarbonizing these use cases, the use of hydrogen and other renewable fuels will be critical. This chapter explores zero-carbon hydrogen production options, including electrolysis and methane pyrolysis, as well as ways to transform pure hydrogen into fuels compatible with today’s industrial equipment, such as methane or ammonia, with only modest energy losses. The chapter also explores the challenges and opportunities related to use of bioenergy in industrial settings.

Renewable Energy Production Costs in 2020

Renewable Energy Production Costs in 2020

Levelized electricity costs come from utility-scale projects completed in 2020. Biogas’s average reflects typical costs from on-farm anaerobic digesters or centralized city wastewater treatment plants. This graph opts to show electricity from solid biomass (rather than the cost of solid biomass fuel, such as wood pellets) because fuel costs make up less than half the cost of delivered energy services from biomass combustion, and heat from biomass combustion is often coproduced with electricity in combined heat and power systems.

Carbon Capture and Use or Storage

To keep CO2 in dedicated geological storage, it must be deep enough to keep CO2 in a liquid form due to the pressure (typically below 800 meters) and have a layer of impermeable caprock above to prevent upward migration.

In cases where industrial carbon dioxide production cannot be completely avoided, the remaining carbon emissions may be captured and stored underground or incorporated into new products. An established technology in the oil and gas industry, carbon capture can also be used by a diverse array of other industries. This chapter investigates existing and upcoming technologies for capturing carbon from exhaust streams in industrial facilities (chemical adsorbents, oxyfuel combustion, etc.), carbon storage and utilization techniques, and the industries best suited for taking advantage of carbon capture.

Global Sources and Uses of CO2 in 2020

Global Sources and Uses of CO2 in 2020 Chart

All values are in millions of metric tons of CO2. Source quantities do not exactly equal use quantities due to rounding. Calculations assume that carbon-capture-to-dedicated-storage projects had the same capacity factor as carbon-capture-to-enhanced-oil-recovery projects (87 percent, excluding nonoperational plants).

Carbon Pricing and Other Financial Policies

Carbon price revenues can be directed toward programs that reduce industrial GHG emissions including R&D funding, energy efficiency upgrades, cost-sharing for demonstration projects, and capitalizing green banks.

Policymakers have a wealth of financial policy tools available to accelerate the transition to clean industry. One such tool, carbon pricing, incentivizes innovation in sustainable, modern equipment while reducing market distortions caused by polluters who currently do not pay the costs of harms caused by their pollution. This chapter explores many aspects of carbon pricing systems: when to utilize them, the design of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and carbon offset systems, permit banking, pricing systems across jurisdictions, and how to avoid “leakage,” wherein manufacturing activities are shifted to regions with weak or no carbon pricing. The chapter also describes how to implement other financial policies, including green banks and lending mechanisms; subsidies and tax credits; and equipment fees, rebates, and feebates.

Characteristics of Global Carbon Pricing Systems in 2021

Characteristics of Global Carbon Pricing Systems in 2021 Chart

Policymakers have a wealth of financial policy tools available to accelerate the transition to clean industry. One such tool, carbon pricing, incentivizes innovation in sustainable, modern equipment while reducing market distortions caused by polluters who currently do not pay the costs of harms caused by their pollution. This chapter explores many aspects of carbon pricing systems: when to utilize them, the design of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and carbon offset systems, permit banking, pricing systems across jurisdictions, and how to avoid “leakage,” wherein manufacturing activities are shifted to regions with weak or no carbon pricing. The chapter also describes how to implement other financial policies, including green banks and lending mechanisms; subsidies and tax credits; and equipment fees, rebates, and feebates.

Standards and Green Public Procurement

Standards must evolve over time to drive continued improvement. Building in a formula specifying when and how future requirements will become more stringent makes for more transparent policies that are resistant to interference and stagnation.

Standards that set performance benchmarks for the energy consumption or GHG emissions of individual industrial equipment pieces or entire facilities are an important complement to carbon pricing, overcoming non-price barriers and fostering innovation. This chapter explores the facets of well-designed standards, including broad market coverage, opportunities to meet standards at lower cost, and the ability to strengthen automatically over time. Governmental green public procurement (GPP) programs specify the emissions standards that products must meet to be purchased or funded by government. As a major buyer of many industrial infrastructure outputs, such as steel and cement, a government’s GPP program can create a large and lucrative lead market for green production technologies, encouraging scaling and driving down costs.

Share of National GPP Programs Covering Specific Products and Services in 2017

Share of National GPP Programs Covering Specific Products and Services in 2017 Chart

Regulations for covered products may govern emissions during the product’s manufacture (e.g., building materials) or use (e.g., vehicles, appliances), or they may emphasize sustainable harvesting or recycled content (e.g., office paper, food and catering). “Building design” and “Infrastructure design” include engineering design elements affecting in-use performance plus construction impacts. “Building equipment” includes space heating, air conditioning, lighting, and water heating, while “Appliances” includes ovens, dishwashers, clothes washers, and the like.

R&D, Disclosure, Labeling, and Circular Economy Policies

In the 1970s, the U.S. became a leader in solar photovoltaic (PV) research thanks to supportive government programs and the establishment of what would later become the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This chapter explores other ways government policy can contribute to industrial decarbonization. Policy has long fueled successful R&D and the widespread adoption of new, transformative technologies. Key approaches include the support and guidance of national laboratories and public-private research partnerships, grants and contract research, and ensuring that companies and labs have access to scientific talent through quality education and immigration programs. Emissions audit requirements help companies identify abatement opportunities. Public disclosure and green labeling requirements help reinforce standards and encourage consumers to buy sustainable products. Circular economy policies, such as right-to-repair laws, encourage companies to be mindful of the lifecycle and sustainability of their products.

U.S. Government R&D Funding by Research Type and Performing Entity in 2019

U.S. Government R&D Funding by Research Type and Performing Entity in 2019 Chart

Data include funding from the federal government and state governments.

Equity and Human Development

International public climate finance totaled $227 billion per year in 2019-2020, but only $9 billion (4%) went toward industry, the smallest share of any sector.

This chapter discusses how policymakers can ensure that the transition to sustainable, clean industry promotes equity and human development worldwide. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) can leapfrog dirty technologies to develop clean, modern, and efficient industry. This requires affordable technology licensing and robust investments in LMICs’ companies and infrastructure. Smart policy can help to secure prosperity for all communities, including efforts to protect public health, ensure that clean industry’s economic benefits directly reach local community members, minimize job displacement in vulnerable communities, and attract and support new job growth to mitigate any job displacement. Policies’ impacts on spending can be balanced, achieving a stable and growing economy that minimizes both unemployment and inflation.

Global Income and Wealth Inequality in 2021

Global Income and Wealth Inequality in 2021

Jeffrey Rissman portrait
JEFFREY RISSMAN is the senior director of the industry program at Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan energy and climate policy think tank. His work focuses on technologies and policies to achieve net zero industrial greenhouse gas emissions. He is the coauthor of Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low‐Carbon Energy (2018) and the creator of the open-source Energy Policy Simulator.
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The creation of this book was supported by Energy Innovation. Learn more about our industry program.