“Hot Topic” of Renewable Thermal Technologies Gains Momentum with New Initiative

The “hot topic” of renewable heating and cooling was reportedly much discussed at the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Summit the past couple days in Santa Clara, California. Here’s what they were talking about.

…the cold, hard truth is that if companies focus on addressing electricity alone — without considering how they fuel heating and cooling functions across factories or campuses — many are likely to fall short of their “renewable energy” aspirations.

In the manufacturing sector alone, the energy used for these processes — everything from running boilers to process food to sterilizing and cleaning equipment — accounts for at least one-third of all consumption, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Other figures peg the percentage at close to 50 percent.

“Thermal demand in factories and buildings comprise such a large percentage of energy and fossil fuel use, and as a result it will be impossible to achieve long-term climate and energy goals without dramatically increasing the use of renewable heating and cooling,” said David Gardiner, president of advisory firm David Gardiner and Associates.

Enter the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, a new initiative announced this week by the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance. The effort was founded by five manufacturing giants — Cargill, General Motors, Kimberly-Clark, Mars and P&G — and the city of Philadelphia. It will be facilitated under the REBA umbrella by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and David Gardiner and Associates.

According to a helpful Renewable Thermal Collaborative fact sheet, “Renewable thermal technologies offer a clean, efficient, and increasingly cost-competitive option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conventional energy demand from heating and cooling.” Yet, despite the advantages of renewable thermal technologies, and despite the fact that Americans spend $270 billion on heating and cooling every year, “the use of renewable thermal technologies for heating and cooling applications, including biomass, biogas, geothermal, landfill gas, and solar thermal, has received relatively little attention compared with renewable electricity.”

Clearly, that situation needs to change, and that’s where the Renewable Thermal Collaborative comes in:

As a coalition, the RTC offers value to members by providing “power in numbers.” The RTC is the only place to focus on renewable heat and where manufacturers, state and local governments, and environmental organizations come together collaboratively to understand the problems in the market, learn from each other, and overcome these barriers to renewable heating and cooling.

The RTC offers an implementation-focused, collaborative platform operating under the umbrella of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) to advance the needs of manufacturers and state and local governments to tackle barriers to renewable thermal energy. REBA has become the central platform coordinating efforts to expand large buyers’ access to renewable energy options.

As you can see from this September 18 press release, major corporations like Mars, Cargill, General Motors, Kimberley Clark and P&G understand the importance of this effort. As does the city of Philadelphia, whose Director of the Office of Sustainability recognizes the RTC as “an important piece of the puzzle to reach our ambitious climate and renewable energy goals.” Given the buzz this effort received at the REBA Summit, as well as the tremendous advantages it offers, we’d expect that many more corporations and cities will be signing on soon.