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Companies Warm up to Thermal Energy

Biogas plant

It takes energy to heat things up and to cool things down—a lot of energy. In the U.S., 25 percent of our energy use across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors goes to heating and cooling at a cost of $270 million annually. Globally, the numbers are even more eye catching. Fifty percent of global energy demand goes to heating and cooling and accounts for 39 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

Despite this large energy and carbon footprint, and the price tag that comes with heating and cooling, a transition to utilization of renewable energy sources for thermal power—biomass, biogas, geothermal, landfill gas, and solar thermal—has received relatively little attention.

Earlier this month, the Climate Leadership Conference, a leadership group of major thermal energy users, set out to see that renewable thermal demand gets the attention it deserves. A dozen prominent companies, along with the City of Philadelphia and the University of Maryland, released the Renewable Thermal Buyers Statement, indicating their demand for market-ready, sustainable, renewable thermal solutions to meet their economic, greenhouse gas emission reduction, and renewable energy goals.

The 12 companies that signed on are: Amy’s Kitchen, Cargill, Chemours, Clif Bar & Company, Envision Gundersen, General Motors, HP, L’Oréal USA, Mars, Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, and Procter & Gamble. These energy buyers have thermal demands for needs ranging from temperature control in offices and datacenters, to industrial processes, to food production.

In the statement, the signatories call for energy suppliers and developers, utilities, regulators, and policymakers to clarify and advance a menu of simple solutions. Specifically, the statement calls for:

  1. Acceleration of cost-effective renewable thermal technologies
  2. Creation of market approaches and instruments to advance renewable thermal solutions
  3. Increased market transparency
  4. Standardized renewable thermal energy products
  5. Creation of innovative financing and project structures
  6. Expansion of collaboration among market stakeholders

There is precedent for the type of impact on the market that the Renewable Thermal Buyers Statement might have. In July 2014, 12 prominent buyers released the Renewable Energy Buyers Principles calling for increased opportunity to access electricity generated from cost-competitive renewable sources. Today, roughly 80 companies have signed on to the principles. Demand from these buyers has spurred the development of tools such as the virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA). Since the drafting of the principles, voluntary commercial and industrial renewable electricity purchasing has expanded to more than 13 gigawatts. This demand has driven the development of new renewable energy assets and helped to push down the price for renewable electricity in general.

Energy Foundation is proud to have supported the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, which provided the leadership to draft and release the Renewable Thermal Buyers Statement.